Is Participating in Therapy Enough to Achieve Lasting Sobriety?

Professional treatment is often required for recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). This is because substance abuse interferes with an individual’s ability to think clearly and to remain accountable for lasting sobriety. As if making the decision to begin therapy isn’t hard enough, it is important to recognize whether or not therapy alone can foster lasting abstinence. 

For example, some individuals may wonder if attending therapy a few times throughout the week will enable lasting sobriety. Additionally, others may wonder if their recovery journey will be complete once they conclude their initial treatment program. In either case, it is vital to recognize that recovery from SUD is a lifelong journey filled with many bumps, hardships, and substance-use temptations. Therefore, the majority of individuals on the journey to achieve lasting sobriety will need to participate in long-term, continuing care following an initial treatment program. 

Why Is Professional Treatment Necessary for Lasting Sobriety?

It is not uncommon for people to question their need for treatment when they are struggling with substance abuse. Some may even question if they are able to establish their sobriety at home, without the help of a professional treatment program. However, professional treatment is required to establish and maintain lasting sobriety due to the complex effects of substance abuse on the brain.

Understanding Substance Use Disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains, “A substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to a person’s inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUDs.” SUD is characterized by notable brain changes that affect a person’s lack of control over substance-using behaviors. 

Oftentimes, individuals that use alcohol and other drugs mildly can cease their substance use with very few issues, other than lacking outside accountability to maintain sobriety. However, attempting to cease chronic substance use or abuse without professional help can also lead to life-threatening consequences, in addition to no opportunity for outside accountability. 

Recovery is a lifelong journey because relapse always remains a potential possibility. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights relapse rates for SUD to be between 40-60%. Additionally, it explains that relapse can be a common experience for those working to establish lasting sobriety due to addiction’s chronic nature.

The Value of an Initial Addiction Treatment Program

Individuals who are attempting to establish their initial sobriety from moderate or severe SUDs can benefit greatly from participating in a professional addiction treatment program. Typically, the most effective treatment programs tailor their programming to fit the individualized needs of each client, also known as individualized treatment. 

To effectively establish abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, stopping substance use is only part of the battle. A professional treatment program will help individuals identify and address the underlying motives that may have contributed to the development of their SUD. For example, many people use substances to self-medicate trauma. However, others may have developed SUD from conditioned habits of alcohol use among peer groups. Whatever the case may be, a treatment program will not only address these issues but also find healthier and more effective solutions for them. 

Treatment programs also provide clients with valuable coping mechanisms and relapse prevention strategies, necessary for lasting sobriety. A variety of different treatment approaches are often used throughout treatment, including, but not limited to:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) 
  • Holistic therapy
  • Family therapy

Treatment Is More Than Individual Therapy

There is a common misconception that mental health and addiction treatment is based on individual therapy alone. Although individual therapy is a main element of addiction treatment programs, there are many other elements of treatment that make it as important as it is. For example, nearly all treatment programs incorporate group therapy as a necessary part of the recovery process. This is because peer support provides individuals with the validation, accountability, and empathy that they need to experience to achieve lasting motivation in healing.

Additionally, treatment can provide clients with the resources that they may need to successfully transition out of treatment back into everyday life. For instance, many individuals may need to enter sober living homes as a part of their recovery journey. Others may need professional assistance in locating opportunities for employment. 

Prioritizing Lasting Sobriety After Treatment

Completing an initial treatment program is a huge accomplishment. However, meeting this milestone does not indicate that addiction recovery has been accomplished. As mentioned previously, recovery is a lifelong journey filled with challenges. Effective sobriety requires constant efforts to maintain abstinence from alcohol and other drugs throughout life.

After completing a treatment program, individuals are encouraged to regularly participate in aftercare. New triggers, cravings, and traumatic life events can jeopardize recovery if an individual is not actively prioritizing their sobriety. Oftentimes, aftercare is incorporated into an individual’s addiction recovery plan to prevent relapse. Some examples of aftercare include:

  • Regularly attending support group meetings weekly, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Participating in self-care activities every day, such as engaging in physical exercise, prioritizing healthy eating habits, and taking time to destress
  • Checking in with a therapist, sponsor, or mentor
  • Becoming a sponsor or mentor for someone in early recovery
  • Attending local sober events 
  • Deepening connections with other sober peers in recovery

In summary, participating in therapy is rarely ever enough to achieve lasting sobriety from substance abuse. It is vital to utilize recovery opportunities as often as possible – especially beyond treatment throughout long-term recovery – to ensure lasting sobriety. 

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you may wonder whether therapy will be enough for you to achieve lasting sobriety. Unfortunately, due to the chronic, relapsing nature of addiction, participating in therapy is often not enough on its own to successfully achieve long-lasting sobriety. Recovery is a lifelong journey that requires constant attention, maintenance, and healing efforts. 12 South Recovery understands that establishing sobriety involves more than participating in or completing a treatment program. This is why we encourage lifelong participation in aftercare for all of our clients. We can incorporate aftercare activities into your treatment plan. For more information about our services, call us today at 866-839-6876.

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