10 Types of Therapy Used in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Updated on July 17th, 2020

rehab clients in group therapy

Addiction recovery is as much about physical abstinence as it is about making positive mental and behavioral changes. The way we think impacts the way we behave, so naturally, therapy and counseling are an important aspect of addiction treatment in rehab and the recovery process.

What Is the Importance of Therapy for Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

Using behavioral therapies for drug and alcohol addiction has many benefits and studies show certain types of therapies are effective for helping people overcome their drug addiction.1 Here’s why:

  • Therapy engages people in substance abuse treatment.
  • Therapy provides incentives for people to remain sober.
  • Therapy modifies peoples’ attitudes and behaviors toward drug abuse.
  • Therapy increases life skills and teaches people how to manage stress, triggers, and high-risk situations in recovery.

Even if a client isn’t voluntarily going to treatment, therapy can help break down an individual’s resistance to treatment and open up the opportunity for recovery. There is no single effective cure for addiction, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supports the notion that behavioral therapy and counseling is an essential part of the recovery process, although there are many other treatment modalities that can be used simultaneously to achieve positive, lasting results.2

Types of Treatment for Addiction

There are many different types of addiction treatment programs for people who are struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or drug addiction. These are some of the most common types of treatment for addiction:

  • Medical detox: Medical detox is designed to clear all the drugs from the addicted person’s body. Medical and clinical professionals make the process more comfortable by treating physical and emotional symptoms of drug withdrawal. Individual therapy during detox also helps prepare the client for ongoing treatment in rehab.
  • Inpatient rehab: Inpatient rehab for addiction provides a high level of structure and accountability for people who are recovering from addiction. Clients live at the rehab center for the duration of treatment and they maintain a structured daily schedule that includes individual therapy, group therapy, participation in recovery group meetings, time for physical activity and meals, recreational outings, as well as a small amount of personal time.
  • Outpatient rehab: Outpatient rehab allows clients to live at home or in a sober living home while they complete treatment. This also allows for more flexibility if clients need to continue working or caring for children during their treatment. Clients attend several outpatient group meetings each week, which are hosted by licensed treatment professionals at a safe, clinical location.
  • Online rehab: Online rehab programs allow clients to attend remote video treatment sessions from the comfort of their own homes or while traveling. Video sessions are hosted by licensed treatment professionals and cater to populations who live in remote locations or who cannot otherwise attend face-to-face treatment programs.
  • Court-ordered rehab: Individuals who are arrested and charged with drug-related crimes may go to drug court, where they can be sentenced with rehab instead of jail time. There are strict requirements for these types of programs, but generally speaking, they allow eligible individuals to receive treatment for the underlying problem (addiction) instead of just going to jail. These programs help reduce recidivism rates among non-violent drug offenders.
  • Sober living programs: Sober living programs provide safe, supportive, drug and alcohol-free living environments for people in recovery. These gender-specific homes provide peer accountability and support alongside regular drug testing, house meetings, and IOP. Residents also have access to clinical therapy and additional recovery support services, including individualized recovery programming, certified peer recovery support, employment assistance, educational planning, and volunteer placement.
  • Aftercare: Aftercare services are ideal for people who have already completed detox, rehab, and sober living but who need continued support to maintain their sobriety. Aftercare programs offer peer accountability with weekly meetings and support services.
  • Teen drug rehab: Some drug rehab programs are tailored to teenagers who are struggling with substance use disorders. These programs address teen-specific issues that young people may face in recovery while also providing educational and social services to make re-integrating back into society after rehab much easier.
  • Holistic drug rehab: Holistic drug rehab programs offer treatment services that are designed to enhance clients’ wellness via their mind, body, and spirit. Treatment offerings may include services like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, or nutritional counseling.

Although there are many treatment options to choose from, the best type of addiction treatment for an individual will depend on the severity of the addiction, treatment history, financial ability, and other personal circumstances. A doctor, therapist, or licensed addiction treatment professional can help you determine a treatment plan that is right for you.

What Are Behavioral Therapies for Drug Abuse?

Behavioral therapies help individuals engage in their substance abuse programs by modifying their attitudes and behaviors regarding drug abuse, providing incentives for them to stay sober, and increasing their life skills so they can deal with challenging situations, triggers, and cravings. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research has shown several different kinds of behavioral therapies for drug abuse are effective.


10 Types of Therapy Used in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

There are many different types of therapies that are used in addiction treatment programs like residential rehab, IOP, and aftercare. Each type of therapy is different and may be more or less effective, depending on the client’s needs. If you or a loved one is preparing to start an addiction treatment program, here are some of the types of therapies you will likely encounter.

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

man in CBT therapy

What is Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)? 
Cognitive behavioral therapy is founded on the core principle that psychological problems like addiction are based (in part) on harmful thinking patterns, negative learned behaviors, and unhelpful coping techniques.

How is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?
CBT aims to change harmful thinking patterns by teaching individuals how to recognize and reevaluate them realistically, use problem-solving to deal with difficult situations, develop self-confidence and self-efficacy, and gain a better understanding of the behaviors of others.3 Instead of focusing on the past, CBT is centered around the here and now to help clients move forward in life.

Many addicted people are plagued by negative thinking patterns, which can make it very difficult to stop using drugs or alcohol. Negative thinking patterns also heavily contribute to feelings of powerlessness and mental health problems that frequently occur alongside addiction like anxiety or depression. Instead of feeling powerless over their addictive behaviors, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people explore patterns of negative thinking that contribute to self-destructive behavior like substance abuse and adopt healthier ways of thinking that will contribute to a life of sobriety.

What Are the Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction?

  • CBT is focused on the present and goal-oriented.
  • CBT helps clients develop strategies to deal with cravings, stressful situations, or triggers that may occur outside of rehab.
  • CBT can be used in group or individual therapy.
  • CBT allows clients and therapists to work together to identify negative thinking patterns and develop healthy ones.
  • The skills required for CBT are practical ones that can be incorporated into everyday life.
  1. Contingency Management for Addiction

What is Contingency management?
Contingency management is a type of behavior therapy in which individuals are rewarded for making positive changes in their lives.

How is Contingency Management Used to Treat Addiction?
It is based on the principle that positive reinforcement is likely to increase the frequency of a certain type of behavior, such as sobriety.4 Examples could include vouchers for negative drug tests, prizes, or natural reinforcements like an improved relationship with a spouse or a significant decrease in health problems.

What Are the Benefits of Contingency Management for Addiction?

  • Contingency management can increase retention rates for substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Contingency management can improve a person’s likelihood of staying sober after rehab.
  • Contingency management is often helpful for a wide range of people of all ages.
  • Contingency management can be used as a stand-alone treatment method or in conjunction with other types of therapy, such as CBT or motivational interviewing.
  • Most insurance providers cover contingency management because it is low-risk and widely regarded as beneficial for addiction treatment.
  1. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy for Addiction

man in rational emotive behavioral therapy with therapist

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a type of therapy that is very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy.

How is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?
It helps people identify negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to emotional distress and harmful, self-defeating behaviors.5 However, the primary difference between the two is that rational emotive behavior therapy focuses more on the person’s belief system and seeks to replace faulty and irrational beliefs with those that are based on logic.

What are the Benefits of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy for Addiction?

  • Clients learn how to take responsibility for how they feel and behave in response to something.
  • Clients learn how to identify and monitor irrational thoughts that have the potential to lead to negative behaviors.
  • Clients learn how to acknowledge negative feelings and stress and be okay with the ensuing discomfort without feeling compelled to suppress those feelings with alcohol or drugs.
  • Clients learn to adopt healthier and more realistic expectations of themselves, the world, and the people around them.
  • Clients learn the importance of self-acceptance and put it into practice.
  1. Motivational Interviewing for Addiction

What is Motivational interviewing?
Motivational interviewing is a counseling method in which the therapist or counselor seeks to motivate the client to maintain their sobriety by identifying his or her intrinsic motivations and values and then focusing treatment on that.6

How is Motivational Interviewing Used to Treat Addiction?
Instead of being forced to change or face legal consequences or other immediate consequences, motivational interviewing helps clients find their own desire to get sober. In using this type of counseling approach, the counselor forms an alliance with the client that is fueled by collaboration, giving the client the ability to make choices for himself or herself, and evoking internal change to promote lasting recovery.

What Are the Benefits of Motivational Interviewing for Addiction?

  • It improves retention rates for substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Clients are more motivated to make personal changes that will improve their odds of maintaining sobriety.
  • It increases client participation in treatment.
  • It reduces the likelihood of relapse.
  • Clients are encouraged to develop self-actualization goals.
  1. Family Therapy for Addiction

couple in family therapy

What is Family and/or Couples Therapy?
Family or couples therapy is designed to address an individual’s substance abuse problems, as well as co-occurring problems and issues related to the interconnected relationships within a family unit.7

How is Family Therapy or Couples Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?
The idea behind family therapy is that the addicted person’s actions and behaviors are influenced by their familial relationships and vice versa. Family therapy involves all affected individuals (immediate and/or extended family) and is often necessary to improve relationships, address issues like stress, enabling behaviors, and communication problems to improve the home environment in a way that promotes continued abstinence.

What Are the Benefits of Family Therapy or Couples Therapy for Addiction?

  • It helps keep loved ones motivated and engaged during treatment.
  • It provides important educational information about addiction and the recovery process.
  • It gives individuals a safe place to voice their concerns, express their feelings, and ask questions related to addiction.
  • It helps ease feelings of anger, stress, fear, and confusion among family members.
  • It helps family members develop skills and strategies to cope with the addictive behaviors and recovery process.
  • It improves communication among family members.
  • It provides opportunities to address any mental health issues in the family.
  1. 12-Step Facilitation Therapy for Addiction

What is 12-Step Facilitation Therapy?
12-Step facilitation therapy is a structured approach to addiction recovery that is grounded in the concept of addiction being a spiritual and medical disease. The primary focus of 12-Step facilitation therapy, which is a manual-driven therapy, is acceptance, surrender, active participation in the recovery community, and continued sobriety.8

How is 12-Step Facilitation Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?
Fueled by active involvement in a sober community, the main idea behind this type of therapy is that a person is more likely to stay sober if they are continually involved in a 12-step self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Group involvement provides opportunities for individuals to develop healthy relationships with other sober people, share their lives with people who have similar experiences and struggles, and have a judgment-free zone where they can talk freely about the challenges they are facing in sobriety.

What Are the Benefits of 12-Step Facilitation Therapy for Addiction?

  • It provides clients with opportunities to develop a healthy, sober relationship with a sponsor.
  • It exposes problems or psychological resistance to meeting attendance and participation, prompting further exploration of those issues.
  • It offers opportunities to get socially engaged with a recovery community.
  • It promotes deep introspection and helps clients get the most out of their 12-Step meetings.
  1. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy for Addiction

What Is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was originally developed in the late 1980s to treat clients with PTSD. Since trauma and substance use disorders are often intertwined, EMDR is also an effective approach for treating people who suffer from addiction.

How is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Used to Treat Addiction?
EMDR is designed to help clients process and resolve traumatic memories, experiences, and emotions while replacing negative images associated with the trauma with positive beliefs.9 For example, if a client survived a horrifying accident, he or she may abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with the anxiety associated with those memories. Instead, EMDR can help the person associate those memories with positive beliefs such as, “I am strong and capable to have survived such an event.”

What Are the Benefits of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for Addiction?

  • It reduces the emotional and physical symptoms of trauma and PTSD.
  • It decreases distress from disturbing and traumatic memories.
  • It improves clients’ self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  • It may help resolve possible anticipated triggers in the future.
  1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction

woman attends dialectical behavioral therapy

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that was developed by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan to treat people who were suffering from severe suicidal ideation.

How is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?
It is designed to help people overcome self-destructive behaviors like addiction by teaching them how to live in the moment (mindfulness), find healthy ways of coping with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.10 DBT therapists may utilize individual therapy, group therapy, and treatment interventions between sessions to help clients achieve positive, lasting results.

What Are the Benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction?

  • DBT has proven to be effective for reducing self-harming behaviors, suicide attempts, and clients’ inpatient treatment days.
  • It helps clients learn how to regulate their emotions.
  • It addresses harmful behaviors that are barriers to recovery and that decrease quality of life.
  • It helps clients develop functional behaviors and apply them in everyday life.
  • DBT motivates clients to change the aspects of their lives that they can.
  1. Matrix Model for Addiction

What is the Matrix Model?
The Matrix Model is used to help stimulant abusers overcome their addictions to drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription stimulants.

How is the Matrix Model Used to Treat Addiction?
This method addresses a wide scope of contributing factors for addiction and uses cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy (among other evidence-based methods) to focus on positive behavioral changes, relapse management, and participation in self-help groups to help clients achieve lasting sobriety.11

What Are the Benefits of the Matrix Model for Addiction?

  • It uses drug testing to encourage honesty and genuine work toward sobriety.
  • It provides positive reinforcement to reward effort.
  • It helps clients recover from negative behavior and temporary setbacks.
  • It provides balance and structure in a lifestyle of recovery.
  • It provides educational information about addiction, recovery, life skills, and cognitive behavior.
  • It encourages participation among family members, not just the addicted individual.
  1. Person-Centered Therapy for Addiction

What Is Person-Centered Therapy or Individual Therapy for Addiction?
Person-centered therapy is used to treat addiction, among other things. It focuses on treating the individual, rather than the substance abuse itself. It is grounded in the idea that shame and rejection hold us back from healing, while self-acceptance leads to positive change.12

How is Person-Centered Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?
With person-centered therapy, the counselor or therapist meets with the client regularly and establishes a stable and grounded place where the client can find relief from an otherwise chaotic life. By providing empathy, unconditional love, and acceptance, the client learns to see himself or herself through another person’s eyes and begins practicing self-acceptance and reflection. This type of therapy can be very empowering for a person who is recovering from substance abuse and addiction.

What Are the Benefits of Individual Therapy for Drug Addiction?

  • It helps clients explore their thoughts, feelings, habits, and experiences to gain a better understanding of themselves and their addiction(s).
  • It gives clients someone who will listen to their problems without judgment and productively discuss them.
  • Helps clients establish a trusting and supportive relationship with someone who is fully invested in helping them reach their recovery goals.

What Is the Best Therapy for Substance Abuse Treatment?

Finding the best therapy for substance abuse will largely depend on the individual’s needs, circumstances, and personal experience with addiction. Often, many of the types of therapies listed above are used in conjunction with one another to provide a well-rounded approach to addiction treatment.

Do I Need a Substance Abuse Therapist or Recovery Therapist?

If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and you need help to get sober, working with a substance abuse therapist or recovery therapist is a wise decision. These licensed and experienced professionals are often employed at medical detox centers, drug rehab centers, or may receive patient referrals from community programs.

If you need help to overcome your addiction, ask your doctor, counselor, or therapist for treatment recommendations. You can also call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes to be connected to a licensed addiction treatment professional.

Find Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment in Austin

The stigma surrounding therapy and counseling can turn a lot of people off to the idea of participating in it during treatment. However, therapy is one of the most beneficial aspects of addiction treatment and can foster life-changing beliefs and behaviors that are necessary for a full recovery.

If you or a loved one would like to learn more about your addiction treatment options or programs for people in recovery, call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes to speak with a member of our admissions team today.



  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-therapies
  2. https://d14rmgtrwzf5a.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/drugfacts_treatmentapproaches.pdf
  3. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083448/
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64964/
  7. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-5
  8. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-4
  9. https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy
  10. https://www.verywellmind.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy-1067402
  11. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-3
  12. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-mental-health/2018/05/addiction-and-person-centered-therapy/
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