The Role of Therapy in Recovery from Alcohol Addiction

The role of therapy in an addiction clinic

There is one word to describe the role of therapy within alcohol addiction and that word is “critical.”

counselling therapy

An alcohol detox is important

It is now reasonably well known that in order to stop drinking then there needs to be a medically assisted detox from alcohol. Alcohol is basically a drug and over a period of time the body gets tolerant to alcohol and two things actually happen.  Firstly, we will need to consume more to get an effect from the alcohol. Secondly the body also becomes used to our consumption, and we will start to get withdrawal symptoms until we drink alcohol again. There is also the danger for a daily drinker that, whatever amount they are consuming, that if they suddenly choose to stop drinking alcohol the mind and body can respond quite violently. The mind can go into a pattern of hallucinating and the body can experience dangerous seizures by day three. 

At The Haynes Clinic we still get regular enquiries from people who want to stop drinking alcohol and are aware of the need for a detox and that an alcohol detox will take around 10 days. To stop any form of withdrawal either Librium or Diazepam is administered within the safe environment of a residential rehab and under the care and supervision of the doctor attached to that rehab. In this day and age, it is almost impossible to get help with a detox, due to lack of resources from the NHS. It is difficult to get admitted to a hospital and the only route to immediate help is through the private sector. However, to be admitted for treatment for a relatively short period and detox is generally a waste of money as it will usually lead to an early relapse back in to drinking.

Alcohol detox and addictions therapy can take place at the same time

Being admitted into a residential rehab or addiction clinic needs to be viewed as not just being there to have an alcohol detox – that is just a small part of the process.  The main part and the most critical is to gain an understanding of the changes that need to be made around our addictive thinking and behaviour and to experience a period of time in treatment to help break that addictive cycle. The recommended residential addiction treatment period is 28 days but due to possibly getting time off work or financial constraints then the minimum period we will admit someone into The Haynes Clinic is for 14 days. We used to admit for a week in the past but this inevitably led to relapse and a return. We do not have any desire to have repeat business here!

It is quite common for someone to be seen by the doctor and admitted into residential addiction treatment care in the morning to then be in group therapy the afternoon of the same day. A daily structured plan of group therapy is very important, and it needs to be commenced as soon as possible.  All groups are led and supervised by one or two qualified therapists that are usually in Recovery themselves and have thus gone through similar addictive experiences and have a degree of empathy and understanding. 

Different types of addiction therapy

The most common form of addiction therapy would be based around Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). For example, helping to identify negative thought patterns and negative beliefs that are possibly contributing to an individual’s  behaviour and drinking that are identified by the therapist and focused on in treatment. Basically, this involves looking at rational and irrational thinking and being able to identify and process it. It is being able to replace these dysfunctional beliefs with more positive ones that helps on the road to Recovery. It looks at why people do the same thing every day and get a worsening result but are not able or willing to make changes. Inevitably, the alcoholic’s or addict’s thinking will be challenged by the therapists and other members of the group in a constructive and not destructive way. This is in order for them to challenge their perceptions and their addictive thinking so that they can then change it. 

A dangerous perception is the belief that there is something that occurred in an alcoholic’ or addict’s life that caused them to be alcoholic and it is that incident that they solely need therapy around. The danger lies with them thinking that if that can be processed, and sorted by therapy, then the problem will be resolved, and they will be able to drink normally again. This is absolutely not the case, and the role of Recovery is abstinence based.  It may be the case that an incident or incidents in their lives has been the reason why they have increased their daily consumption but the reason they have an addiction is quite simply that they have been born with a disposition for a dependency and the timeline to when they seek help is different for everyone. Psychotherapy is more based on solving a problem and going back to childhood trauma and family relationships but is not suitable within an addiction setting.

Other forms of CBT used are Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy that focuses on regulating thoughts, feelings and behavioural disturbances. Dialectic Behavioural Therapy is another form of CBT that includes teaching the skill of validating or accepting uncomfortable emotions, behaviours and thoughts.

The importance of honesty and feeling our feelings

When individuals are in treatment and without alcohol supressing them, their personal feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, anger and remorse centred around their past addictive behaviour and thinking are heightened.  It is very important that those feelings can be processed within a safe environment and that they are not still carrying the feelings around with them to use as an excuse to keep relapsing.  That is why it is so important to be honest in treatment. This will allow people to share with others where their addiction has taken them and to have this therapeutically processed, knowing that their past actions are not being judged. It is the feeling of increasing trust that will enable them to continue looking for support from others and to not try and get well without support. This start of being open and honest in the safe therapeutic environment is the beginning of a realisation that there is a way forward.