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What's it going to take to get clean and sober - and stay that way?!!

Is getting away from your everyday environment, staying sober for a month or more and rebuilding your health all that’s really needed for rehab success? Or is there more to it than just this?....

Well, a month of sobriety and healing gets you feeling enormously better - there’s no doubt about this - but unfortunately, a month’s break without effective therapies is simply a temporary recess... just a short break that ends quickly after you get back home. Because unless you learn new skills and make substantial changes, you fall back into old patterns and habits - and it all just starts all over again.

So you go to rehab for 2 essential reasons:

  1. To get out of your environment for long enough to get stabilized, build a short stretch of abstinence and start to recover physically and mentally
  2. To get an intensive crash-course on all the skills you’ll need to avoid relapse and maintain your recovery once back in the ‘real world’

Therefore, the most successful programs teach you an array of skills you’ll use every day to avoid relapse while building a more satisfying life.

Read on to find out more about:

  • Some of the skills you’ll need to learn to give yourself a reasonable chance at maintaining recovery after the end of a rehab stay
  • Some of the many changes you’ll have to make along the way
  • Some of the therapies and interventions used in quality addiction treatment programs to help you out with these essential tasks of learning and change

In Treatment - What You Need to Learn

Why search out a program that employs qualified professionals and makes use of evidence based therapies to help you along?

Well, to put it simply, recovery from addiction is an enormous task, you have much to learn and many changes to make, and if these changes were easy or just happened naturally - you wouldn’t need treatment in the first place, would you?

Some of the most important skills you need to learn include:

  • Overcoming ambivalence to change and building and maintaining strong motivation to do the work required for lasting recovery.
  • Learning coping skills to help you manage cravings and identify and avoid high risk situations.
  • Learning to rearrange your life to find pleasure and reward in healthy and positive activities (such as by adopting a fun exercise-routine) rather than needing to seek reward from drugs or alcohol.
  • Learning healthier ways to deal with negative emotions or states, like anger, sadness, frustration or boredom.
  • Learning better communication skills and other interpersonal skills necessary to support strong relationships.
  • Learning how to build and make use of a sober support network.

Treatment - To Help You Make Some Big Changes

Good intentions aren’t enough, to build a life of recovery you’ll have to make some substantial changes, such as:

  • Changing the way you think - Learning to recognize and correct negative self-talk (I need a drink, I can’t handle this etc.) for example
  • Changing environmental variables - Reducing your exposure to environmental variables that threaten your recovery. For example, if a full wallet triggers cocaine cravings - have a trusted family member take over your finances for you
  • Changing how you respond to negative emotions - Learning to recognize negative states that often precede cravings to use or drink and then using behavioral tools to reduce your risk
  • Changing social relationships - Cutting ties with people who threaten your recovery1

The Kinds of Therapies Proven to Work

The following are some examples of the more common types of evidence based substance use disorder therapies and interventions

Motivation Enhancement Therapies

Interventions designed to help you overcome ambivalence to change so you can get and stay motivated to do the hard work of recovery.

Addiction Focused Family and/or Couples Therapies

Therapies that involve loved ones and life-partners increase the odds of lasting recovery. Loved ones learn how to support the recovery process and family members learn to change dynamics that may contribute to the problem. Additionally, since stress and anger can lead to relapse, improving relationship satisfaction can decrease relapse risk. 

Group Therapy

Professional-led group therapy sessions allow a group of peers to explore topics of recovery together.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

By changing the way you think you can change the way you feel and act. Through training and practice exercises you can learn to replace maladaptive thinking patterns with new healthier outlooks, and this can help a great deal.2

Relapse prevention programs are often CBT based.

Contingency Management

It’s difficult to work toward a goal when you feel no pleasure after achieving it.

People often suffer through feelings of blunted reward and depression during early recovery, and this makes it harder to feel satisfaction and happiness after meeting recovery goals, like a first week of abstinence, for example.

And when achieving a goal doesn’t bring pleasure or satisfaction, it’s hard to stay motivated to keep working at achieving future objectives.

So under contingency management, you work for incentive vouchers (like for movie tickets or gift certificates) that serve as external rewards for achieving your goals.

And then after a while, once your brain recovers enough, the satisfaction of maintaining recovery becomes all that’s needed to reward you for your efforts

12 Step Facilitation

Provides an introduction to the 12 steps and the working of steps 1 through 5, and increases the likelihood a person will continue with community self-help groups, like AA or NA, once out of the primary treatment phase.

Remember - Treatment Takes Time

  1. So you have a lot to learn and you need to make a lot of change - this can’t happen overnight
  2. Addiction is considered a brain disease because it causes lasting changes to the structure and functioning of the brain. These brain changes alter your thinking and memory systems, your ability to concentrate and even your ability to plan or control your impulses. The brain will heal, in time - but only if you give it time!

For these 2 reasons, it’s important that you stick with addiction treatment for a while. Research suggests that treatment that lasts for less than 90 days doesn’t work well, and in most cases, treatment that lasts for longer than 90 days is most effective.1

Treatment does not have to be residential for the whole period, in fact you should ‘step-down’ to lesser intensities of care, as you are able.

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Page last updated Sep 28, 2015

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