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5 Things You Need to Know About Addiction Therapy Programs

With thousands of addiction therapy programs available, finding the best one for yourself or a loved one is overwhelming at best. Avoiding the problem for another day may seem like the best course when you factor in confusing clinical jargon and the emotional intensity you’re likely experiencing. It’s easy to table the decision when you worry about making the wrong one.

Addiction, however, is a progressive family disease. Putting off therapy for addiction only leads to more consequences and frustration down the road. The Ranch Pennsylvania is here to help you find the best addiction therapy program.

So, what are some of these addiction therapy methods? Quality addiction therapy programs often blend evidence-based treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), illness management recovery (IMR), 12-step recovery, individualized treatment plans with support around any trauma, and structured aftercare.

Intimidated by the long words and initials? Don’t be. Let’s break it down together.

Learning five of the most common addiction therapy methods used by successful treatment programs helps you make an educated treatment decision and move forward into a new, healthy lifestyle.

Evidence-Based Addiction Therapy Programs

While the phrase “evidence-based addiction therapy programs” sounds intimidating, it’s not. Let’s say a doctor suggests trying a new treatment for your broken leg. This new treatment has never been tried or tested. Chances are, you’d politely say, “No, thanks.” Why? Because a broken leg is serious, and you want to stick to treatments previously shown as successful.

Addiction has some similarities to other medical conditions. Substance use disorder is dangerous and life-threatening. While new therapies for addiction may prove worthwhile in the long run, don’t play around with untested treatments with so much at stake.

Let’s look at the addiction therapies where evidence shows a success rate.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was introduced in the 1960s by the American psychiatrist Aaron Beck, who was influenced by many previous psychologists and psychiatrists’ research. Read more about CBT and Aaron Beck on theHistory of Cognitive Behavior Therapy page of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy website.

While studying depression at the University of Pennsylvania, Beck observed automatic negative thoughts among his patients. People suffering from depression tend to react with negative thoughts to a variety of situations automatically. For example, when a depressed person is cut off in traffic, they may automatically think, “Why does this always happen to me?”

CBT is based on this idea of automatic negative thinking and reframing the thought by exploring its logic. In the above situation, a CBT approach would have you, as the depressed person, isolate the single thought, “Why does this always happen to me?” Next, the CBT therapist challenges the thought. Is this true? Does this always happen to you when you drive?

Beck’s patients evaluated this automatic thinking and deep-seated core beliefs through prolonged therapy, which, in turn, treated the depression. Today, CBT, also called cognitive therapy (CT), has proven effective in treating thousands of disorders, including substance use disorders.

For more information on how CBT is used to treat substance use disorders, read“Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition) Behavioral Therapies,”published in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Drug Abuse.


Alcoholism is a chronic condition meaning the person is not cured of addiction. Illness management recovery (IMR) is a program for people living with chronic conditions such as addiction. Patients learn how to manage the symptoms of their illness with the support of their doctors and others. IMR has shown some success among individuals with disorders like schizophrenia, major depression, and addiction.

IMR is often combined with other treatments like CBT. With IMR, patients become more self-aware and self-sufficient by learning about their condition, establishing recovery goals, coping with life’s stresses, and building a strategy around potential triggers.

Let’s say Logan is a newly recovering from alcoholism. He’s preparing to leave his residential addiction treatment program after 90 days. In the past, Logan’s job as an emergency room doctor caused him a lot of stress, contributing to his drinking. While preparing Logan’s individualized aftercare plan, Logan and his support team came up with some IMR-related goals and coping strategies. His after-care therapist will check on Logan’s progress during their weekly sessions. With each action taken, Logan will receive plenty of encouragement to set other simple specific, goals and strategies.

For more information about how clinicians can use IMR for goal setting in mental health and addiction recovery, read the University of Minnesota’s Center for Practice Transformation “Guide to Goal Setting and Tracking”written by Julie Rohovit, Ph.D., copyright 2021.

12-Step Approach

In the 1930s, two men with alcoholism, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, met in Akron, Ohio, and started what became the first successful addiction treatment model. Today, Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is a worldwide service organization and the foundation of many other 12-step programs.

The program is based upon a concept of community and 12 consecutive steps meant to pave a spiritual pathway to a life without substances. Mind you; the spiritual pathway doesn’t necessarily have to include traditional ideas of God.

While the 12 steps are the cornerstone of addiction recovery for many individuals, we live in an age with other treatment options available. The programs mentioned above, along with others like self-management and recovery training (SMART), are proven alternatives.

For the best results, addiction recovery is often a blending of many different elements. Laying the recovery foundation with evidence-based therapies, like those mentioned above, increases the odds of someone successfully managing recovery.

A good addiction therapy program should build this recovery foundation. These are tools for the recovering person to add to a recovery toolbox. If an addiction treatment program leaves these therapies out in favor of lesser-known, lesser-substantiated treatments, exercise caution.

Addiction as a Symptom: Treating the Person

When Michelle was 12, she was sexually abused by an uncle. She kept the abuse a secret from everyone. At 13, she discovered alcohol and opioids. Michelle was prescribed painkillers for a broken ankle from a soccer game.

Michelle loved the feeling she got from opioids. She especially loved to combine the painkillers with alcohol. Off and on, she maintained a relationship with painkillers and alcohol for the next 18 years.

Now, at age 31, Michelle is in a residential addiction recovery program. During some therapy sessions, Michelle began sharing about her past sexual abuse. Her therapist realizes Michelle’s past trauma could jeopardize her current sobriety.

There’s no way of knowing if Michelle would have developed a problem with alcohol and opioids minus the sexual abuse. Studies, however, show a strong relationship between trauma and addiction. In any case, past trauma can lead to relapse for those in recovery when left in the dark.

Michelle needs an individualized addiction therapy plan. Because of her past abuse, her treatment plan may require more individualized therapy with a professional who understands addiction and sexual abuse. She may benefit from art therapy to draw out painful memories that are too difficult to verbalize. In addition, Michelle uses exercise as a way of releasing her stress.

Her therapist recommends an adventure therapy program to build her confidence and draw out her athleticism.

A solid addiction recovery program will explore deep issues like childhood trauma and recognize the importance of individualized addiction therapy programs. These issues, brought into the light, may feel uncomfortable. At the same time, shining a light on the rough parts of your past can feel like lifting a 1000-pound weight from your shoulders.

If an addiction recovery program promises a light and “fun” treatment experience, ask some serious questions. How often is individual therapy? Is there group therapy? Are childhood traumas explored?

There’s no easy and effortless road to a stable lifestyle of sobriety when it comes to addiction recovery programs.

We value therapy for addiction recovery because the path is often challenging, but it’s worth it. Hiking a hard trail up a mountain may not be a piece of cake. The view from the top, however, is spectacular.

Read more about the link between childhood trauma and substance use disorder in the journal article published by Wiley Depression and Anxiety titled,“Substance Use, Childhood Traumatic Experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an Urban Civilian Population.”


After open-heart surgery, a patient is given a clear and structured plan for recovery. Addiction recovery is no different. Substance use disorder is a chronic, lifelong condition.

Aftercare is your plan for after the completion of addiction treatment. The plan is intended as support for the recovering person and the family. A well-planned aftercare program is essential for success.

For starters, the best programs are designed for the long haul. And, each recovering person will need a tailored plan.

For instance, Logan has a high-pressure job as an ER doctor. His aftercare program includes plenty of mindfulness therapy. He’s also continuing CBT in group therapy with other recovering people. He and his wife are also participating in some couples’ therapy as they navigate a new path in their marriage without substances.

Michelle’s aftercare includes weekly, sometimes biweekly, individualized therapy sessions. Her childhood trauma surfaced in addiction treatment. For Michelle to remain sober, she will need a strong team of support around her.

During her residential treatment, Michelle’s sister and husband learned about addiction. Both have begun attendingAl-Anon, a 12-step program for the friends and family of those struggling with addiction.

Regardless of the addiction therapy program best suited for your situation, becoming educated about the options helps. At first, some therapies may sound like a jumble of letters and medical jargon. Ask questions, and explore what’s available.

AtThe Ranch Pennsylvania,we want you to have the best treatment experience possible and teach you the tools to live a healthy life afterward. We can help. Call us today at 717.969.9126.

By Heather Berry

Contributing Writer with Promises Behavioral Health 

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