In 2004, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a survey and asked people to identify if they had been to a mental health counselor within the last year, and if not, why they did not attend. Nearly half of households that participated admitted to getting help for at least one member of the household. That may seem like an impressive number, but a full 87 percent of people said that a lack of insurance coverage kept them out of the counseling sessions they might need.

Counselor Therapy

It is easy to imagine how these numbers may have changed since 2004. Research about mental health issues has been robust in the last decade or so, and as a result, many people are aware that mental health concerns are not due to laziness or character flaws. Most people know mental health issues have a chemical basis. That could mean the stigma revolving around mental health issues is on the decline. In addition, many people who could not get insurance in the past may get it now, through the Affordable Care Act.

With more people getting therapy, you might wonder if it is right for you. If you are considering therapy, you might wonder how your sessions will work and what they are designed to do. This guide will help to answer your questions, so you can get the help you need in order to feel better.

Therapy Basics

When you have an addiction, therapy will be a big part of your treatment program. In fact, if you are enrolled in an inpatient addiction treatment program, you might spend several hours every single day in therapy sessions with qualified professionals. If you are in an outpatient program, your appointments with your treatment team will also be dominated by therapy.

These therapy sessions are vital because they allow you to understand your addiction fully. Should you have a mental illness that impacts your addiction recovery process, you can learn more about that illness in therapy too. In addition, counseling sessions provide you with the opportunity to learn how to cope with and control the triggers that lead to a mental health flare-up. That awareness and the skills you build could help you to stay sober, even when you are living in your community and facing addiction sobriety challenges.

If you are still not convinced that therapy is right for you and your addiction, consider this from APA. The organization states these signs could indicate a need for therapy:

  • Excessive worries or a feeling of being on edge
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulties with everyday tasks
  • An inability to resolve problems, even with the help of family members and friends
  • A persistent sense of helplessness and sadness
  • Overuse of substances of abuse

An ongoing addiction could cause some or even all of these signs. And some or all of these signs could be resolved with the help of a qualified counseling program.

Counseling sessions tend to be short, and they do not last forever. According to statistics quoted by The New York Times, 42 percent of people in therapy have 3-10 visits. Only one in nine have more than 20 sessions. If you are concerned that entering therapy means blocking out time for the rest of your life to go to therapy, you can put that worry to rest.

Your therapy sessions will differ, depending on the type of therapy your professional chooses to use. But most are quite structured, and they follow a very specific plan that really does not change from week to week. Once you have been through one or two therapy sessions, you will understand how those sessions typically run, and that could help to put your sense of nervousness at ease.

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Traditional Therapy Types

Some types of therapy your counselor might choose are traditional, meaning that they have been in use for many years, and they have been studied extensively by professionals all around the world. These are just a few of the traditional therapy types you might encounter in an addiction treatment program.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy is designed to help you listen to the thoughts and emotions that fly through your head before you take a hit of drugs or alcohol. When you can identify those thoughts, you will be in a great position to change them. When you change those thoughts, you might be able to resist the urge to take any kind of substance at all. CBT can also help with other mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety, as it can help you to identify and rectify thoughts that exacerbate your mental illness issues.

This form of therapy has been studied extensively, in terms of helping people with addictions and other mental illnesses to improve, and the results have been impressive. For example, in a study in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, clinicians examined 106 different studies about the effectiveness of CBT, and most found that this therapy worked better than other types of therapy available. Results like this seem to indicate that CBT is a good choice, and it could be one your team recommends.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This form of therapy is a modification of CBT. It is designed to help people who have borderline personality disorder. People like this may find other forms of therapy a little challenging and combative, and they may not benefit from those therapies because they do not feel supported in therapy. DBT practitioners spend a great deal of time helping their clients to feel supported and cared for in therapy, and that can allow people to pay attention and learn in therapy, so they can feel better in the future.
  • Family therapy: This form of therapy, according to Mayo Clinic, can help an individual and their family to deepen connections and move through difficult times. The lessons learned here can help a family to overcome an addiction, but those lessons can also help the family to build the skills they might need to move through future difficulties, even when therapy is complete. Your family may come to your treatment center regularly to participate in counseling sessions with you, or your family may just come to one or two sessions during your treatment program.
  • Group therapy: Many of the therapy sessions you will attend while in treatment involve just you and your therapist. But there are some sessions that will involve a therapist, you, and a group of other people who also have addictions. This is group therapy, and according to APA, more than 50 clinical trials have suggested that group therapy is as effective as, or more effective than, individual therapy.

Group therapy sessions might focus on one particular aspect of the healing process, such as a typical relapse trigger or a common sobriety challenge. Or group therapy sessions might focus on building specific skills, such as communication skills or distress tolerance.

  • Interpersonal therapy: This type of therapy is designed to assist people who have depression, according to Psych Central. The therapy is performed on an individual basis, and it is made to help you learn how to:
  • Identify the source of difficult emotions
  • Express your emotions in a healthy way
  • Deal with unresolved issues from the past
  • Create a healthier future

In interpersonal therapy, you might spend quite a bit of time talking about the habits you lean on when you feel depressed or upset. You might learn how to unpack those habits and find their source, and you may learn how to build new habits that are healthier.

Nonconventional Treatment Types

While conventional therapies can help a great deal in terms of addiction and recovery, there are some lessons you might need to learn with the benefit of a new and novel approach. These are therapies that may not have a great deal of research behind them, but they might still provide you with the help you need in order to control your addiction.

  • Art therapy: This form of therapy is designed to provide you with an opportunity to discuss a difficult memory or emotion, without sitting down and talking openly. Your therapist might give you an assignment and ask you to create a piece of art that deals with this difficult emotion or memory, and as you create the art, you might come to new realizations about how that topic plays a role in your addiction.

Art therapy is more than an art class. The counselor is available during the entire session to help you interpret and understand the art you are making and your relationship to the art therapy assignment as a whole. Should you feel the urge to talk more about the art, your counselor will be available to assist with that too.

  • Music therapy: According to the website Ancient Origins, the first music was played on an instrument some 30,000-60,000 years ago. People have long used music to help them express feelings that were hard to put into words. You could do the same in a music therapy class for addiction. Your counselor might ask you to play a musical instrument, listen to a song, or sing. Again, your counselor will be there to help you make sense of the music you make, and it could be quite helpful in terms of addiction recovery.
  • Equine therapy: There are all sorts of different ways to incorporate a horse into a healing program, says Equestrian Therapy. Some counselors use horses to assist kids with movement disorders, for example, while others use horses to help children to overcome trauma. In an addiction treatment program, horses are often used to help people understand the basics of nonverbal communication. When you are working through equine therapy, you might see how the horse responds to your body language, and how the horse must learn to trust people it does not know. Those could be powerful lessons you could apply to your own interpersonal communication skills.

Making Therapy Work for You

When you are enrolled in addiction treatment, your team will work hard to find the right therapy program at the right time for you, but you will also have work to do. As Psych Central points out, therapy works best in people who have a strong desire to change. If you want to change, you will listen to your counselors and take the steps that are required to put the lessons of therapy to work in your life. You will also be more likely to do the homework that is required between therapy sessions.