What is Substance Abuse Therapy?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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The term substance abuse usually refers to the excessive use of drugs or alcohol, though it may sometimes include other substances as well. Often, substance abuse is viewed as a condition or illness that requires treatment, and substance abuse therapy is just one type of treatment that may be effective. A person who is being treated for substance abuse may engage in group or individual therapy. Substance abusers can learn how to identify destructive behavior and how to avoid it; practice positive behavior in role-playing sessions; and learn how to utilize support systems.

Often, substance abuse therapy is aimed at helping substance abusers work through denial. In many cases, people who are substance abusers deny there is any problem with their behavior and assert that they can stop using the substance at any time. Unfortunately, however, they are usually unable to put a stop to substance abuse on their own. In fact, they may not even try since they don’t believe they have a problem. Substance abuse therapy may help a person recognize his problem and begin taking steps toward change.


Sometimes substance abuse therapy involves learning about destructive behaviors and their consequences. This type of therapy may help an abuser recognize and own up to his unacceptable behavior. It may also help an abuser see how his behavior can prove damaging not only to himself, but also to others. Substance abuse therapy may aim to help abusers end destructive behavior patterns and replace them with positive patterns.

Role-playing may be a part of substance abuse therapy in some cases. For example, the abuser may engage in exercises in which someone attempts to convince him to use drugs, alcohol, or other substances. In such a case, the abuser may practice refusing in an effort to build up his refusal skills.

Support is usually an important part of substance abuse therapy as well. Battling substance abuse problems can be challenging and require an enduring commitment. Substance abuse therapy may provide the support a person needs to continue to try.

In many cases, a person who is struggling to end his substance abuse may engage in one-on-one therapy. This means his sessions will involve meeting with his therapist alone, though another party’s input may be sought on occasion. An individual may also engage in group therapy, which may take place with family members or other loved ones present. It may even involve sharing therapy sessions with other substance abusers. Sometimes a person may engage in both individual and group sessions.


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