Common Types of Outpatient Counseling for Adults


People who are suffering from the disease of addiction or who actively abuse substances have access to many different types of therapy to help them in their quest to get sober and stay that way. This article provides an overview of some of the most commonly available behavioral therapies.1

When people enter treatment, the first stage in their rehabilitation is to break the physical dependence on the substance. Medically supported detox is the safest way to go through this process and handle withdrawal symptoms. Rehab facilities may differ in their approach to this stage of recovery.

With expert help, the majority of people who enter treatment will successfully get through withdrawal. However, they will still experience cravings and feel strong compulsions to relapse, and the remainder of their treatment program will prepare them for the fight against these urges.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is probably the most widely used therapy for addiction treatment. The principle behind CBT is that learning processes play a key part in the negative behaviors that are responsible for substance abuse. By applying different skills, people with addiction can be helped to resist cravings.

During CBT, people explore the underlying factors that lead them to abuse substances. They also learn positive strategies for dealing with those triggers. They are taught to recognize the situations that are likely to make them want to relapse and how to deal with those situations in a positive way.

Moral Reconation Therapy

Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) is similar in many ways to CBT, but there are some key differences. MRT was originally developed to address the problem of young offenders re-offending after serving time in detention. “Reconation” is a word that is not well known. It is derived from the equally obscure term “conation,” a word coined to refer to the thought processes that people go through to arrive at a decision.

Frequent exposure to drugs or alcohol has a significant impact on the brain, leading to different thought processes than a brain free of substance use. CBT and MRT both try to modify thought processes. The key difference between the two therapies is that MRT teaches people with addiction problems to focus on the moral aspects of their illness.

Other Therapies

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is often used as a counseling approach to get people to recognize they have a problem with substance abuse and to motivate them to explore other forms of treatment. A professional counselor will carry out an assessment with each individual, and further counseling sessions will include discussions aimed at motivating individuals to get sober.2

The 12 Step program was developed in the 1930s to deal with alcohol abuse and addiction. It has now been expanded to help people control addiction and abuse of other substances. It is a spiritually based therapy in which participants must first come to an acceptance that they have a problem that needs to be solved.

They are then required to surrender themselves to a higher power and become active participants in the 12 Step program. They must accept the damage their illness has caused to others, and take active steps to redress that damage.

Other forms of therapy include family, individual and group therapy. There are numerous alternative therapies, including art therapy, yoga and biofeedback. In most cases, people in treatment programs will be able to participate in more than one type of therapy. The best programs tailor therapy to each individual’s needs.