The Importance of Individual Therapy

The Importance of Individual Therapy – Doing the Work

Addiction recovery involves more than detoxification and abstinence from addictive substances. Individual therapy is an integral part of addiction recovery and works to determine the causes of addiction and reduce thought patterns that could impede your progress.

At Right Path Addiction Centers, our counselors use individual therapy, in addition to group and medically-assisted therapies, to give you the best chance of a successful recovery.

What is Individual Therapy?

Individual psychotherapy is a collaborative approach to addiction recovery between the patient and the therapist. The patient and therapist meet together one-on-one and discuss the patient’s addiction in detail to determine the best strategies for managing situations that could disrupt the recovery process.

Many therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, guided discovery, role playing, or successive approximation. These methods help patients identify and confront negative thoughts and emotions that may have caused their addiction.

Benefits of Individual Therapy

When used as part of a multifaceted approach to long-term recovery, individual therapy has successfully addressed opioid and alcohol addiction. Some of the benefits you can expect from individual therapy include:

Maintaining patient confidentiality

Your therapist will never discuss the topics and information disclosed during your session with another person unless they believe you are a danger to yourself or others. Your medical information is protected under federal and state laws and cannot be disclosed unless there is evidence of criminal activity or abuse.

Going at your own pace

Group therapy is highly beneficial and provides you with a community of like-minded individuals in the same situation for support. However, individual therapy offers a tailored approach to recovery, allowing you to go at your own pace, disclosing as much or as little as you feel comfortable during your session.

Developing insight into your addiction

A therapist helps you identify negative thoughts and behavioral patterns that contribute to your addiction and offer a new perspective on old issues. This insight into your addiction provides you with the information you need to identify potential obstacles or triggers that could derail your recovery.

Learning tools to manage negative thoughts and emotions

One of the reasons some addicts relapse is due to inadequate coping strategies for dealing with cravings, stress, and high-risk situations. During individual therapy, you work closely with your therapist to develop personalized tools to help you manage these situations.

Feeling empowered to kick your addiction

Individual therapy often focuses on finding the cause of your addiction and provides you with practical techniques for tackling addiction in daily life. This helps you feel in control of your recovery and empowers you to kick your addiction.

Improving communication skills and repairing relationships

A lack of interpersonal connection and communication skills can be at the root of many traumatic relationships due to addiction. Individual therapy can help you build your communication skills and provide coping strategies to rebuild your relationships with friends and family.

What to Expect During an Individual Therapy Session

What to Expect During an Individual Therapy

The first individual therapy session typically focuses on collecting information. The therapist may ask questions about your past physical, mental, and emotional health and discuss your addiction and the reasons you’re attending individual therapy.

The first few sessions also provide you with the opportunity to assess whether the therapist’s counseling style is a good fit for your needs. It is crucial to find a therapist you’re comfortable with; it means that you are more likely to be completely honest and responsive to psychotherapeutic strategies suggested by your therapist.

It is also an excellent opportunity to discuss the therapeutic techniques your therapist uses, how many sessions are needed, session length, and your ultimate goals for therapy.

Most therapists encourage their patients to do most of the talking during the session. In the beginning, it can be challenging to discuss your addiction with your therapist, including past traumas or painful experiences.

Individual therapy sessions can elicit intense emotions, and you may become sad or angry during treatment. However, over several sessions, you’ll find it’s easier to open up as you develop a healthy rapport with your therapist.

Your therapist may give you homework assignments to help build on topics discussed during your therapy session. This could include journaling to help process negative thought patterns or meditative exercises like progressive muscle relaxation to promote mindfulness. These homework assignments are an important part of doing the work in therapy and are key to successfully managing your addiction.

How to Do the Work

talking to your doctorIndividual therapy only helps you overcome your addiction when you commit to doing the work. The term refers to dedicating yourself to improving your behavior and thought patterns and is unique to each individual depending on the focus of their therapy and their goals.

Doing the work means:

  • Attending your sessions with a positive mindset and being open to change
  • Understanding how to recognize your emotions to respond rather than react
  • Remembering strategies and techniques (like deep breathing and self-talk), you discuss with your therapist and using them in challenging situations
  • Practicing mindfulness to root yourself into the present rather than dwelling on the past
  • Defining your boundaries and holding them firm
  • Discovering how to accept yourself
  • Releasing aspects of your life you can’t control

Without consistent effort to do the work between sessions, your individual therapy sessions may feel disconnected from your everyday life, making them less effective. While it is challenging to do therapeutic work, whether due to time constraints or life stressors, it is crucial to do the work to get the most out of your therapy sessions.

If you find yourself avoiding or feeling unable to complete your therapeutic work, discuss these feelings with your therapist at your next session. They can help you develop a realistic plan to optimize your time.

Right Path Addiction Centers: A Holistic Approach to Addiction Treatment

Right Path Addiction Center takes a holistic approach to addiction recovery, including medically-assisted therapy, group therapy, and individual therapy. Our experienced and compassionate counselors can help you make the most of your individual therapy session to help you get your life back on track.


Written by Sergey Zhitar, MD Medical Director

Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.

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