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Clinical Treatment

Clinical treatment is a critical part of drug and alcohol rehab, and covers a broad range of psychological and therapeutic treatments.

Clinical Treatment For Drug And Alcohol Addiction

Clinical treatment focuses on the mental and emotional aspects of addiction and integrates therapy and counseling into a broader treatment plan. Patients in treatment centers engage with knowledgeable therapists to understand how addiction occurs and are screened for any possible co-occurring disorders, processes which continue throughout the patient’s time in treatment. Therapists will evaluate patients for underlying factors, such as guilt and shame, while tackling core issues. Therapists also assess patient’s backgrounds to gain understanding of their upbringing, along with current feelings or issues, in order to help identify goals and create an individualized treatment plan.

There are many different types of clinical treatments. Therapists will help determine which types of therapy best meet the individual needs of a patient after meeting with them and completing initial assessments. Some of the most common types of therapy used in addiction treatment include:

  • Trauma resolution
  • Psycho-education
  • Self-love techniques (The Powell Method)
  • Building and/or rebuilding healthy relationships
  • 12-Step facilitation
  • Relapse prevention education and techniques
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Group and individual therapy
  • Multidimensional family therapy

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Benefits Of Clinical Treatment

Patients will meet with a therapist to develop self-awareness and achieve personal transformation. Therapists help patients uncover the root cause of their addiction through various questions and interactions. In particular, a high percentage of patients in recovery have co-occurring disorders. Military veterans, for instance, often use drugs to cope with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as do victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Therapists often discover that the underlying causes of an addiction include:

  • Inability to control one’s energy
  • Peer pressure/popularity
  • Combating feelings of depression
  • Enhancing mood
  • Stress reduction
  • Poor lifestyle choices
  • Escaping stress or pressure
  • Filling voids
  • Coping with trauma
  • Lack of connection
  • Self-esteem issues, guilt, or shame
  • Self-medicating mental health disorders
  • Compulsive behaviors like self-harm
  • A desire to feel good

Clinical Treatment Methods

Trauma Resolution

Trauma resolution unearths underlying reasons for addiction, encouraging empowerment in the patient via psycho-education. Trauma resolution is where many patients get to fully delve into their past to discover how it impacts their current problems. Patients may discover a single incident, its aftermath being largely responsible for their addiction, or they may find out that there are a number of problems.


During, biofeedback therapy, patients hear pulses and see soothing images or lights while there are sensors on their skin. The resulting relaxation influences how patients respond to withdrawal symptoms. During biofeedback, vital signs are tracked and monitored by staff.


Psychotherapy delves into the mind of the patient and offers problem-solving solutions to addiction. Patients can connect thoughts and feelings for self-awareness. Psychotherapy explores any underlying challenges to addiction, including co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a highly-effective, evidence-based practice used for treating adults with post-traumatic stress disorder. EMDR is the only therapeutic intervention that is authorized to allow an individual to reprocess traumatic memories and events in a therapeutic setting. Reprocessing is when an individual accesses specific memories and uses dual awareness, along with bilateral stimulation and images, thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, to process unresolved traumatic experiences.

EMDR allows you to stop hiding from your trauma, safely address it, and then put it away in a safe place. It is highly recommended for adults with developmental or complex trauma, but can also be used for single incident trauma. There are eight phases of treatment, making EMDR a highly focused therapeutic intervention that takes time. It involves not only bilateral stimulation, but skill building techniques to prepare the individual for the phase where they begin processing the actual trauma itself. EMDR is readily available at many treatment centers, as co-occurring disorders are common.

EMDR is especially beneficial as it offers skill-building in emotion regulation, cognitive restructuring, relaxation, and mindfulness, as well as psycho-education about symptoms and issues related to the trauma the individual experienced.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a successful, evidence-based therapy (EBT) commonly used in the treatment of substance use disorders. Individuals with substance use disorders often have negative, unhealthy patterns of thinking. CBT is effective at helping individuals identify self-defeating thoughts, beliefs ,and behaviors, all of which may drive their addiction. CBT focuses on challenging and changing cognitive distortions and behaviors, while also improving emotional regulation. It further addresses the need to develop problem solving skills, as well as healthy coping strategies.

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Family Systems Therapy

Family systems therapy (FST), also known as family therapy, is an evidence-based therapeutic method utilized by many clinicians during treatment for substance use disorders, as addiction is often described as a family disease. Individuals are inseparable from their relationships; therefore, it is important to develop or make current ones healthier. FST is based on the belief that changes in the behavior of one family member are likely to have an influence on the way the family functions over time.

It is believed that every member affects each other, and there is a chain-reaction that occurs when one does good or bad. During FST, the family works individually and together to resolve a problem that directly affects one or more family members. Family members explore their individual roles within the family, learn how to switch roles, and also learn how to support each other while expressing their personal needs.

Writing, Art, And Music Therapy

Patients embrace creativity during writing, music, and art therapy. For example, reflection writing classes are offered by skilled personnel to prompt the patient.  These creative outlets help patients connect to their pain and addiction in a healthy manner, leading them to self-discovery. Art, such as music and drawing, is a healthy outlet and form of self-expression

Group Therapy

In group therapy, patients gain support of staff and patients. Some groups focus on 12-Step oriented practices, but may also include mindfulness and meditation practices, psycho-education focuses, stress reduction, and connection. Other topics often covered in group therapy include relapse prevention skills and techniques, healthy boundaries, communication skills, therapeutic activities, and cognitive enhancement skills. Some facilities offer peer-led groups to encourage the flow of positive energy and the sacredness of patients healing in a positive space.

Recreational/Fitness Therapy

Gyms are present in some rehab facilities, encouraging patients to regain body strength. The best fitness therapies encourage physical wellness combined with proper nutrition. Even facilities without gym access often conduct recreational or fitness therapy, such as going on a walk, hiking, or participating in outside games or activities.

12-Step Support Groups

Most rehab facilities offer access to 12-step or 12-step-oriented programs. These programs are largely based on Alcoholics Anonymous, the world’s largest alcoholism support group, and help patients establish a sense of community with others struggling with the same issues. Many 12-step groups use spiritual teachings and practices, encouraging patients to also alter destructive habits and acknowledge a higher power. 12-step programs are often a recovering addict’s primary source of support after they leave rehab, and often help maintain sobriety indefinitely.

Relapse Prevention Techniques

Relapse prevention techniques are included in many treatment plans to prevent future drug or alcohol use. As patients gain insight on how to refuse drugs and alcohol, they can re-prioritize other valuable elements of their life. Life skills coaching is also an important part of relapse prevention, as it teaches skills that help treatment seekers make the right choices.

Alumni Programs

After patients complete rehab, they can remain connected to fellow patients and staff through alumni programs to build support and prevent relapses. Examples include private social media groups, organized 12-Step meetings, monthly charity events, and more. Alumni programs offer support in many ways and greatly aid participants in maintaining sobriety.

Available Ancillary Services

There are many different ancillary services that are conducted in clinical treatment, which are not technically considered therapies.

Common ancillary services used in addiction treatment include:


Acupuncture can assist patients attain a higher sense of wellbeing and assist in alcohol and drug-related detox. Acupuncture helps the body function by energizing specific points on the body called “acupoints.” The goal of acupuncture is to release energetic blockages in the body. Small, sterilized needles are used, and heat can also be added for another sensation.


Yoga is used to promote a sense of wellbeing and relaxation. Patients stretch the body and deeply relax the nervous system. Patients can use yoga to find peace during rehab.


Guided meditation increases mental focus and allows patients to experience present-moment awareness and mindfulness. Meditation has also been shown to lower stress and increase relaxation. There are many forms of meditation, but many involve a participant closing their eyes, focusing, and repeatedly chanting a mantra such as “Om.’


Massages promote relaxation, reduce tension, and combat physical and emotional pain associated with drug and alcohol addiction.

Chiropractic Therapy

Chiropractic therapy focuses on physical healing of the back to produce calmness, reduce tension, and reduce pain. The pain reduction brought about by chiropractic therapy is especially important for those who are addicted to painkillers such as Opioids, who often struggle with the return of their symptoms after they stop using.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps patients overcome and manage injuries and pain, which often are a major contributing factor to addiction, especially addiction to painkillers.

Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition helps those in recovery feel better. It also helps minimize symptoms caused by co-occurring mental health conditions and physical ailments such pain which contribute to addiction. Many treatment facilities offer training and classes to teach those in recovery how to properly diet and prepare foods so that they can continue to improve their diet and health after they leave.

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Krystina Murray

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  • Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys spreading awareness of addiction and recovery to help people transform their lives.

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Theresa Parisi

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by Theresa Parisi, a certified addiction professional.

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