Addictions do not simply develop overnight, and the process of recovery isn’t a quick and spontaneous one either. Maintaining your sobriety takes time, commitment, and diligent effort which extends far beyond the initial stages of getting clean. It endures long after you’ve left rehab and have begun to build your new, sober life.
If your commitment includes individualized and/or group therapy, you may well be utilizing some of the most important and powerful tools at your disposal for cultivating and maintaining your sobriety in the weeks, months, and years following rehab. But what, exactly, are the benefits of post-rehab therapy?
A Sense of Community
One of the most devastating consequences of the disease of addiction is how isolating it can be. Addiction feeds on its capacity to separate you from the people and the things you love and all too readily robs you of both your sense of belonging and your sense of self-worth. And once those core pillars have crumbled, the disease pretty much gets to have you all to itself.
Recovery, on the other hand, is predicated on the restoration of healthy, meaningful, and nurturing relationships. Interestingly, it’s not only the relationships with loved ones, with friends and family, that matter. A significant body of literature indicates that group therapy following rehab can significantly increase your chances of relapse both in the short and long term (1, 2).
These studies also suggest that one of the most significant reasons why group therapy has been demonstrated to be so effective in supporting abstinence is because of the sense of “affiliation” the group therapeutic setting can provide. For example, in their studies of group therapy participation by women with substance use disorder (SUD), both Sugarman et al. and Greenfield et al. found that, though both mixed-gender and single-gender groups were effective in preventing relapse, group interactions indicating high levels of affiliation, mutual understanding, and support were higher among the female-only group and that this, in turn, led to slightly longer, though still statistically significant, periods of abstinence than for the mixed-gender group (3, 4).
It’s perhaps not difficult to understand why: When you have community, when you feel that you belong, are valued, and are understood, particularly by those who are fighting the same battles that you are, that can be a profound motivator when you feel yourself slipping.
There is an additional benefit, because when you have the support of a group of like-minded individuals, the support of those who have walked and are walking the same path, then you have at your disposal a wealth of resources. You don’t have to rely on simply your own fortitude or on the compassion of those who may empathize but who do not truly know what it is to walk through the fire themselves. Group therapy enables those in recovery to benefit from the experiences of others, to witness the recovery process of peers, to receive support, and also provides a source of accountability to your therapeutic community (5).
Changing Hearts and Minds
As beneficial as group therapy can be in supporting long-term recovery, it’s not the only approach that has been shown to be effective following rehab. There is also a significant amount of evidence to suggest that individualized therapy can be equally as effective for preventing relapse. This is particularly true of cognitive approaches, including those emphasizing mindfulness and deploying cognitive behavioral therapeutic techniques (6,7, 8, 9, 10).
Importantly, the mechanisms that make individualized therapy so effective in helping to prevent relapse after rehab seem to differ in a number of ways from those of group therapy. In the group context, you have, above all, the vast and wide-ranging benefits of relationships, from role-modeling to mutual trust and accountability to the positive impacts of healthy relationships on your own self-image. It is both comforting and empowering to know you need never walk the path of recovery alone.
The power of individualized therapy, though, lies largely elsewhere, particularly in its unique capacity to address the underlying causes of the addiction, including past traumas and other comorbidities, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Studies have shown, for example, that those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) are also at significantly higher risk than the general population for experiencing a major mood disorder, such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) (11). Indeed, the same studies suggest that for many with co-occurring SUD and mental health disorders, addiction frequently derives from or is exacerbated by the individual’s efforts to self-medicate, the attempt to manage their psychiatric symptoms by temporarily masking them.
Whether or not an addiction derives from a psychiatric disorder or some other cause, the reality is that the root causes don’t just evaporate once you complete rehab. That is why individualized therapy is so important for long-term recovery. Cognitive therapies, for example, can help you learn to identify the triggers that give rise to cravings and put you at the highest risk for relapse. Armed with such knowledge, you and your therapist can customize a response strategy that will best meet your needs.
This could involve, for instance, establishing a nighttime ritual for promoting optimal sleep hygiene in those whose worst cravings are triggered by extreme fatigue. On the other hand, those who are working through past traumas and adverse life events are likely to experience everything from depression to anxiety to anger. Understanding how to both recognize and channel those emotions in productive ways with the support and guidance of your therapist can help you avoid regressing to those old, self-destructive behaviors.
Cognitive-based therapies offer a range of techniques for supporting relaxation, for learning to become sensitive to incipient physiological and emotional signs of distress, and for coping productively with emotions through a range of techniques, such as journaling. As you learn to recognize your triggers with the help of your therapist and you partner with them to devise a clear, specific, and individualized response strategy for managing those triggers, you’re going to find your sense of power again, your confidence in your ability to withstand the inevitable temptations will grow because you aren’t just operating on hope and willpower. Instead, you have a battle strategy and the weapons you need to win the war against your addiction.
How Bayshore Can Help
At Bayshore, we specialize in a holistic and highly-individualized approach to addiction recovery. We offer a variety of therapeutic options, including group and individualized therapy programs. Our team of multidisciplinary experts provides therapeutic opportunities across a range of disciplines, from art and music therapy to group and individualized CBT. In addition, because our services do not end once our clients leave our facility, we also specialize in helping clients cultivate a post-rehab care regime to help support their long-term sobriety. As such, we partner with our clients, their families, and care providers in their communities to devise therapeutic strategies that meet clients’ short-term and long-range goals. If you or someone you love is experiencing addiction, please reach out to us today to discuss how Bayshore can help!