What is psychotherapy (talk therapy)? How does it help with addiction?

Counseling Service of Addison County and The Addison County Committee on Opiate Addiction have teamed to put together a series of articles for our community this summer. Our hope is that this column offers information, support and hope for addiction recovery, specifically opiate addiction (heroin/painkillers).
This week’s writer is Jessi Farnsworth, who is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and a licensed clinical mental health counselor, is coordinator of Adult Recovery Services at CSAC.
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It is important to know that therapy is not what we have seen presented by Hollywood. It does not have to be lying on a couch in a stuffy office talking about feelings. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is about making the changes you want to make in your life. You will likely find that unlike some movies suggest, psychotherapy is also not a continuous “venting” session week after week. Discussing stressors and problems is important, but it is also important to stay focused on a solution. Helpful psychotherapy will encourage progress towards your goals and the positive change you’re seeking.
Good psychotherapy is very much like physical therapy. Information is first collected about the problem in an assessment. At this time, the provider is deciding what level of care is needed and how to work with you for a solution. Psychotherapy can be tiring just like physical therapy. When overcoming the challenges of this disease and setting goals for change there are specific skills used to reach that goal. Just like with physical therapy clients are often given “homework” — skills and strategies to practice during the week to improve progress.
For treatment of addiction it is important to seek a provider who has experience with addiction treatment. For therapists, there is specific licensure in Vermont for addiction treatment called, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). Look for these letters after the person’s name or ask about their experience with addiction treatment. Most importantly choose a counselor you can respect and trust.
Psychotherapy for addiction treatment will likely include talking about what causes cravings, how to cope with stress and how to make progress in recovery from alcohol and/or drugs. Identifying the people, places and things that have led to addiction often helps. For loved-ones, psychotherapy is helpful as well to discuss how to best cope with the stress of this disease, avoid enabling use and changing behaviors in the home to support recovery.
Therapy can be provided one on one with a counselor or in a group. Therapy is typically once a week for about 50 minutes, but sometimes more or less support is needed. Group counseling has been shown to be very effective with addiction. Many people might think that a group could cause more anxiety and sharing personal issues with a group is stressful. This might be true at first, but many people find that as they get to know other group members they learn from their experiences and share the struggles and coping skills that work best. After being in group treatment many clients say that the support through the group members was the greatest tool in the fight against this disease.
There is help right here in Addison County for therapy. There are many private therapists and Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC) is a state-supported agency for treatment. At CSAC we provide support for clients of all ages, from youth and family, to adults and elderly populations.
For help you can call 2-1-1 for a list of providers.
There is more information online at addictionhelpvt.com.

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