When it comes to overcoming any addiction, counseling, particularly psychodynamic therapy, is just as important as detox. Studies show that individuals who take part in some form of counseling are less likely to relapse. Sadly, only about half of those trying to overcome addiction will take part in aftercare services that include counseling and even less will complete such programs. Considering that the rate of relapse for those struggling with addiction is in the neighborhood of 40 percent, addiction counseling should be part of any comprehensive drug or alcohol recovery program.
For those who may not be familiar with psychodynamic therapy, it is characterized as in-depth psychoanalysis designed to unearth an individual’s thoughts as they relate to addiction, which, in turn, helps resolve mental tension, improves focus, and encourages positive changes in behavior. In this article, we will take a closer look at this relatively new approach to addiction therapy and who can benefit from it the most.
Psychodynamic Therapy And Substance Abuse
Psychodynamic therapy, in the context of addiction, is unique in that it revolves around a strong patient-therapist relationship. During these sessions, patients work with their therapist to better understand how unconscious and deeply personal experiences in their past can impact their present-day mood, outlook, and behavior. It is important to note that these sessions can take the form of one-on-one individual counseling or group counseling sessions
In some cases, family therapy sessions may also be offered depending on the needs of the patient. In all cases, however, the primary objective is to establish a nexus between the patient’s subconscious thoughts and behavior, which will enable them to forge a path toward long-term recovery success. Generally speaking, the decision to abuse drugs or alcohol stems from trials and tribulations that an individual has experienced in their past. Psychodynamic therapy is predicated on focusing on the underlying cause of addiction and delves deep into the patient’s psyche to address unresolved conflicts, relationship problems, and self-esteem issues that may have played a role in the patient’s decision to start abusing drugs or alcohol.
What Techniques Are Used In Psychodynamic Counseling Sessions?
Having established the fact that understanding the patient’s past is the cornerstone of psychodynamic counseling, let’s take a moment to focus on some of the techniques used by therapists to help patients achieve long-term sobriety:
Interpretation – This aspect of psychodynamic counseling is one whereby the therapist will examine the unconscious thoughts and forces that can influence the patient’s decision to abuse drugs or alcohol. The general premise lies in the fact that once the patient becomes cognizant of these potential triggers they can find better and more constructive ways of dealing with them.
Free association – Rooted in the Freudian technique, free association is a component of psychodynamic counseling that encourages patients to speak freely about issues in their lives that they believe play a role in their decision to abuse drugs or alcohol. This aspect of counseling is slightly different from interpretation in that it is based on the patient’s own beliefs as opposed to the opinions of their therapist.
Transference – This aspect of psychodynamic counseling gives the patient an opportunity to evaluate their therapist. During this part of their counseling session, patients will transfer deep-seated thoughts and emotions on to their therapists instead of allowing these feelings to be a catalyst for negative behavior, which often results in relapse.
What Makes Psychodynamic Counseling So Effective?
As with most forms of addiction therapy counseling, psychodynamic therapy significantly improves the likelihood of long-term recovery success. Because of the strong patient-therapist bond, patients feel less inhibited when it comes to sharing their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs as they relate to addiction. It should be noted that these counseling sessions are conducted over a period of weeks and could go on for years depending on the needs of the patient. With each new psychodynamic counseling session, patients learn skills that can help them overcome negative thoughts and emotions that can trigger substance abuse.
During one-on-one individual counseling sessions, the therapist will sit directly across from the patient as they guide them through exercises that will aid in the recovery process. This approach to addiction therapy further strengthens the bond between the patient and the therapist. Of course, some aspects of therapy can vary from patient to patient, including the conversations between the patient and the therapist as they can revolve around specific events in each patient’s life. In all cases, however, these counseling sessions are designed to allow patients to feel comfortable when it comes to sharing their thoughts and opinions. All in all, the benefits associated with psychodynamic therapy include
- Understanding how the patient’s past can influence present-day behaviors
- Encourages patients to end their relationship with drugs and alcohol
- Identifying the underlying cause of addiction
- Provides lifelong skills to ensure long-term recovery
How to Choose the Right Psychodynamic Therapist
The success of psychodynamic therapy depends on the patient’s commitment to ending their relationship with drugs or alcohol; however, it also depends on the therapist and their ability to effectively engage with the patient. Some of the attributes that define a good therapist include
- A willingness to bond with their patients
- An ability to address the specific needs of their patients
- Open and honest communication
- Have the capacity to allow patients to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings
- An ability to structure counseling sessions based on the psychological needs of the patient
In summation, psychodynamic therapy is a viable option for those seeking aftercare following detox. These counseling sessions can mean the difference between an addiction-free life and a resumption of old behavioral patterns that will likely culminate with relapse. If you’re serious about ending your relationship with drugs or alcohol, contact us today.