Therapy is a pivotal part of effective substance abuse treatment, as it often covers root causes of addiction. This can include challenges faced by the patient in their social, family, and work/school life, or issues related to a mental health disorder.
In individual therapy, a patient meets one-on-one with a trained psychologist or counselor to get support in these and other areas.
What is individual therapy?
Individual therapy, also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy, or counseling, is where a client works one-on-one with a licensed therapist to explore issues and get support around certain concerns in their life. Aspects that can be explored in therapy include feelings, beliefs, childhood trauma, life challenges, current behaviors, and parts of life that are causing pain, such as depression, anxiety, or a substance or behavioral addiction.
Individual therapy can last for just a few sessions up to years at a time, depending on the client's needs and goals in the therapy process.
What does individual therapy treat?
- Drug and alcohol addiction
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) and other behavioral addictions
- Depression and anxiety
- Mental health disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and PTSD
- Sleep issues
- Sexual and relationship problems
- Major life transitions or challenges
How does individual therapy work?
Individual sessions begin with a face-to-face meeting with a therapist for an initial session. If in the context of an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab facility, individual therapy usually begins after a patient has undergone medical detox and their body has stabilized.
If outside the context of drug and alcohol rehab, an appointment is usually scheduled on the phone, at which time a therapist will ask questions to see if the client is a good fit. The therapist is also trying to see if they themselves are a good match for the client, particularly with respect to their training and experienced with the client's particular issue.
Sessions are normally conducted face-to-face once a week for approximately one hour. Depending on the therapeutic modality the therapist uses, the session may have a specific structure. Regardless, each session involves one therapist and one client talking. They discuss the client's concerns and often work toward goals the therapist and client agree on, which will facilitate change and improve the quality of the client's life.
Therapist who perform individually therapy usually have a minimum of a master's degree. Therapist titles include:
- Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
- Licensed professional counselor (LPC)
- Psychologist (or clinical psychologist)
What is a session like?
Individual therapy sessions are practiced by a licensed therapist who can be trained in a range of different modalities. However, the modality of the therapist is less important than their experience with the client's presenting problem (such as substance abuse). Ideally, the client is assisted by a therapist with experience with their specific concern. For example, a therapist who specializes in, and has years of experience working with, alcohol or drug addiction and recovery will be better suited for that type of client.
Sessions normally last around an hour (45-60 min).
What are the advantages of individual therapy?
Individual therapy is often where clients first start therapy. They may branch into group therapy afterwards or in conjunction with individual therapy (as is often the case in drug and alcohol rehab centers).
For a first-time client, sharing intimate details and information about their life can be scary. It's important to feel a connection with one's therapist and trust that they are able to help. The bond built between a client and their therapist can often be strong and meaningful. For some, it's the first time they are able to feel heard and seen in a non-judgmental, loving way.
In individual sessions, the entire focus and attention is on the individual client, so there's ample time to dive directly into the client's issue and address specific concerns. A therapist serves as a trained, professional listening ear that can help to identify underlying causes of issues (like substance abuse), gently challenge old beliefs and unhealthy patterns, and provide specific strategies and techniques for the client to use in their lives.
Ultimately, individual therapy helps clients to know themselves better and understand their behavior more deeply. Quality individual therapy will help clients build new tools to manage or alleviate symptoms, cope with stress, face challenges, and rid themselves of unhealthy beliefs, thoughts, or behaviors.