Individual Therapy

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individual-therapyWhat is Individual Therapy?

Overcoming a substance use disorder takes time, commitment, and the support of others. Individual therapy is any psychotherapy session that is held on a one-on-one basis. The types of individual therapy programs available during rehab can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy, among others. Individual therapy provides a deeper level of understanding and communication between the therapist and the client. Many of these programs are designed to help change patients’ negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors by teaching them new and healthier coping techniques. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular form of psychotherapy used to treat substance use disorders, as well as a range of co-occurring disorders, including: 

CBT offers a problem-focused and action-oriented approach to addiction treatment, through which clients learn how to change unwanted and unhealthy behavior patterns.

In a typical session, therapists will help clients to recognize problematic thoughts and feelings and understand how those influence behavior patterns. This can be a powerful tool in many ways because it helps patients recognize the things that lead to impulsive and compulsive responses. By recognizing triggers, recovering addicts will be better able to avoid negative or potentially harmful situations, and use more positive coping techniques as a result. 

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Contingency Managementman-in-therapy

Contingency management, also known as motivational incentives, offers an alternative approach to drug addiction treatment. While CBT and other forms of psychotherapy attempt to address the precursors of drug addiction, contingency management deals with the consequences of drug use. It’s principles involve using rewards in order to reinforce positive behaviors, such as abstinence. 

In a typical motivational program, participants will earn tokens or vouchers as a reward for abstinence and other positive behaviors. They can then swap these abstract tokens for physical goods and privileges, with the hope that new psychological associations will form over time. This method has shown to increase patients’ participation in treatment and encourage sobriety.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is designed to help those who are struggling with addiction to resolve their hesitation about quitting drugs and/or alcohol and getting treatment.  The main goal of MET is to engage participants and elicit a fast and motivated change instead of guiding them through the steps of recovery.

An initial assessment is performed, and is followed by individual treatment session with a therapist. During these sessions, the therapist will give feedback about the initial assessment, as well as begin a discussion about the person’s history of substance abuse.

Another aspect of therapy involves eliciting positive self-statements from the drug user. Through a technique called motivational interviewing, the patient is encouraged to express how they feel, as well as set goals for themselves. This process is meant to elicit change in a natural and unforced manner, by using understanding, empathetic and accepting therapeutic techniques. Motivational interviewing recognizes that every person has unique needs, and that not everyone is ready to change their behavior at the same pace.It serves as a means to engage patients in recovery and has proven to keep them motivated during the beginning stages of treatment, which are the most crucial.


  1. Abuse, N. I. (n.d.). Contingency Management Interventions/Motivational Incentives (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opioids, Marijuana, Nicotine). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  2. Abuse, N. I. (n.d.). Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from

Last updated on April 12th, 2017 at 02:44 pm

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