Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that relapse rates are between 40 and 60 percent for drug addiction – similar to rates of relapse for other chronic diseases like asthma, type II diabetes, and hypertension. Episodes of relapse can be minimized with ongoing care and a continued commitment to recovery after treatment.
A survey published by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NY OASAS) found that 10 percent of American adults report being in recovery from problematic drug and/or alcohol abuse. After a specialized addiction treatment program, diligence to recovery is imperative to maintain ongoing sobriety. Therapy and ongoing care can help to solidify healthy habits and new life skills learned in treatment and allow time for the brain to continue healing without drugs and alcohol.
Many programs will have aftercare or recovery services, or alumni programs for individuals who have completed a treatment plan. Group and individual therapy sessions continue to focus on relapse prevention, communication skills, and other abilities that are important to a sustained recovery. Peer support and 12-Step programs can also be highly beneficial in recovery, providing a high level of encouragement and tools for remaining abstinent and managing potential cravings and triggers. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reports that continuing care beyond an addiction treatment program can have positive effects on abstinence and recovery in general.
In short, therapy, support groups, and ongoing care programs enhance and augment recovery. Continuing to see a therapist throughout recovery is a vital part of maintaining overall wellness.
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Choosing a Therapist
Each person is different and will have variable circumstances and needs when it comes to choosing a therapist. Below are some tips on the process of choosing a therapist:
- Find a therapist that is geographically accessible. The easier it is to get to them, the more likely a person will be to continue going.
- Check with insurance providers to see which therapists may be considered “in-network” and/or at least partially covered by insurance benefits. This can help to minimize costs associated with therapy.
- Discuss fees and how therapy is to be paid for before going. This can help to remove the potential cost barrier to treatment if all costs are understood and budgeted for ahead of time. Some therapists offer a sliding scale and other payment options.
- Find out about their credentials and licensing. Therapists can range in level of professionalism and training.
- Discuss any cultural or ethical concerns and sensitivities. Some therapists may be more inclined and equipped to handle these than others.
- Check to see if they specialize in addiction recovery or that they at least have experience working with those in recovery. Addiction is a complex disease, and a highly trained professional is optimal in helping to manage it.
- Find out what types of therapy they provide. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often a frontline treatment for addiction and recovery. There are many other forms of behavioral therapies that are helpful as well.
- If co-occurring disorders (such as depression and addiction, for example) are present, it is ideal to find a therapist who specializes in this. Integrated medical and mental health care is essential for co-occurring disorders. All providers should be aware of any medications and treatments being administered in order to be sure they complement each other.
- Find out if the therapist has phone services or the ability to be reached outside of sessions in the case of a crisis. This can be very helpful in an emergency situation.
- Discover if the therapist offers group or individual therapy sessions, or a combination of both. Group and individual therapy can both be beneficial during recovery. If a therapist does offer group sessions, discuss how many people are in an average group.
- Find out if family, or couples, therapy is an option. It can be helpful to get the whole family unit involved in therapy during recovery.
- Use personal sources for references. Family, friends, primary care providers, and members of a support group can be great resources on good therapists in the area. They may be able to provide information on personal interactions with specific therapists.
- Call the therapist before booking an appointment and see how the phone interaction feels. A person can generally get a feel for a therapist with this initial conversation.
- At the first appointment, gauge the interaction and decide if it is a good fit. There needs to be a good rapport between a therapist and client as well as a healthy level of trust. While this may take time to build, many times the initial impression can help to determine if the fit is going to be optimal. Other times, it may take a few sessions to decide.
- Discuss goals and expectations with the therapist and discover if they match those of the therapist. If not, the therapist can oftentimes give a referral to someone else who may be better suited for the client.
Resources for Finding a Therapist
There are many resources available for finding a good therapist in one’s local area. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosts a behavioral treatment services locator tool that allows individuals to home in on local mental health and substance abuse services by type and location. Primary care providers, addiction treatment facilities, members of local 12-Step or other peer support groups, and others in recovery can be great resources as well.
Each state will generally have a behavioral health services department within their department of health that may offer local resources as well. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hosts lists of treatment providers by state as well as a crisis hotline. Community outreach programs also provide ongoing support and referrals to treatment and recovery services. In addition, insurance companies and providers can be good starting points when looking for a therapist as they can guide members to covered providers in the area.
Therapy is an important part of recovery, and there are many tools available to help individuals find the right one to facilitate long-term health and wellness.