During difficult periods in life, individual therapy can have a significant positive impact. Individual therapy for substance abuse, in particular, can have lifelong positive effects. Though some feel reluctant to begin individual therapy or don’t know what to expect, individual therapy is often one of the most effective treatment modalities available and an essential component of a well-rounded substance use disorder treatment program.

What Is Individual Therapy?

Those who have never accessed it may wonder, what is individual therapy? People seeking therapy sometimes go to a master’s level therapist, and some elect to receive individual therapy from a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are doctorate-level mental health practitioners who have the ability to prescribe medications but don’t typically conduct lengthy therapy sessions. Master’s level practitioners are licensed therapy providers that do provider longer sessions and ongoing therapy but do not have the ability to prescribe medications.

During individual therapy, clients talk to a mental health professional about life challenges and establish goals to improve their well-being and overall functioning. When talking with a therapist, one can expect a non-judgmental and confidential experience. Therapists follow a strict code of ethics that guide their professional behavior.

Individual Therapy Modalities

Just as there are different reasons people enter therapy, there are a variety of types of individual therapy modalities.  Emotionally focused individual therapy helps people work through difficult feelings in a safe, supportive and confidential setting. Individual therapists may be trained in a variety of modalities. Depending on a client’s needs, therapists may use a variety of techniques from different modalities. Each treatment modality requires specialized training.

Some of the most common individual therapy treatment modalities include:

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

    Specialities such as dialectical behavioral therapy require certification and commitment to using the specific techniques. DBT individual therapy sessions help people manage overwhelming emotions to improve quality of life and reduce distress.

  • Motivational Interviewing

    Motivational interviewing is a therapeutic modality that helps people discern their readiness for change. Sometimes the use of motivational interviewing during individual therapy can be used to explore the client’s underlying wants and needs.

  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

    Interpersonal psychotherapy explores the ways in which one’s relationships with others impact their mental health and wellness. By exploring these relationship patterns, challenges with depression can be minimized and symptoms can be reduced.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common form of psychotherapy that helps people explore the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behaviors and differentiate between them. Individual cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful for a variety of needs, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Relapse Prevention Training

    Relapse prevention therapy is a treatment modality specifically intended to reduce the likelihood of substance relapse during recovery. Relapse prevention training offers practical skills for people struggling with cravings to help reduce the likelihood of substance use during difficult moments.

Benefits of Individual Therapy

Individual counseling and therapy services offer a unique opportunity to explore one’s underlying thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Some of the advantages of individual therapy include confidentiality, non-judgmental feedback and unconditional positive regard. Another benefit of individual therapy includes the reduced burden of a shared problem. Carrying a burden alone can be lonely and isolating. Talking about an issue openly with a professional can be liberating and reduce challenges with depression and anxiety. An alternative viewpoint on personal challenges can be refreshing and can offer solutions that had never been realized. Individual therapy can also help challenge negative self-talk and boost self-esteem, as well as help one explore life values.

Individual Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Individual therapy for substance abuse can be life-changing because the techniques, skills and insights gained in therapy sessions can dramatically improve a person’s daily quality of life. The exploration of core values, relationship patterns and self-worth become part of one’s internal dialogue, as well as a greater understanding of oneself. For substance use disorder, individual therapy is imperative and can offer a lifeline during times of struggle to maintain sobriety.

individual therapy session

What Can Psychotherapy Help With?

Emotionally focused therapy for individuals is useful for a wide variety of challenges. Whether it is a situational stressor or a long-standing challenge, individual therapy can be beneficial. Therapy can be helpful for conditions like mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. The type of therapy that helps most varies on a case-by-case basis. When trying to determine which therapy will work best for you or a loved one, it’s important to consult a mental health professional.

How Therapy Works

Individual therapy activities can help reinforce skills learned in sessions. Therapists may invite you to learn relaxation strategies or practice skills such as thought-stopping or mindfulness techniques. Sometimes, homework may be given to help clients practice skills outside of each session. Generally, therapists work to help clients improve their quality of life and find ways to help them live according to their values. Often, the beginning stages of therapy focus on identifying those needs and setting goals.

What to Expect

Individual therapy sessions begin with establishing your intentions for therapy and developing a set of goals. Individual therapy activities for adults might include guided meditations, cognitive restructuring or a variety of other experiential techniques for reduction of symptoms. Therapists are trained to help people harness their own skills to work toward healing. It is important that a trusting relationship is established for the best possible therapy results. If a client doesn’t connect with a particular therapist, it is crucial to seek services from another provider. Most therapists are familiar with a vast network of other clinicians and are happy to connect clients with another therapist who might be a better fit.

How Long Does Therapy Last?

Therapy can be brief and based on specific need, or it can be long-term and ongoing. Each person’s therapy needs are unique and the length of treatment will be determined based on those needs.

Goals of Individual Therapy for Substance Abuse

As treatment begins, people work with their therapist to identify the reasons for attending sessions. Goals for individual therapy are then established to set a direction for subsequent sessions. Individual therapy sessions can be structured or free form, depending on the needs of the client and techniques of the therapist. Individual therapy for substance abuse often involves a discussion of the stressors of the week, skills used to avoid relapse and feelings connected to cravings and substance use. In many cases, individual therapy can involve a discussion of family of origin patterns and norms, which can help unearth additional information about self-evaluation and the impact of early life experiences.

Effectiveness of Individual Therapy

Individual therapy can be a highly effective form of treatment. However, the effectiveness of treatment largely depends on the client’s readiness and motivation for change. The more invested the client is in their mental health and wellness, the more likely individual therapy will be useful. Finding the right fit in a counselor is an important part of the process.

Individual vs. Group Therapy

The differences between individual and group therapy are vast, and both have their own set of benefits for those who participate. In certain situations, there are advantages of individual therapy over group therapy. Often, those who struggle with severe anxiety or trauma benefit from individual therapy to address the sensitive nature of these circumstances. The decision to participate in individual vs. group therapy is best made with a therapist based on your individual needs.

Key Points: Understanding Individual Therapy & Your Recovery

  • Individual therapy is an effective treatment option for short or long-term needs
  • Therapy can help with developing goals, recognizing values and shifting thinking that can drastically improve one’s quality of life
  • Different types of treatment options are available, including CBT, DBT and motivational interviewing, among others
  • Individual therapy is a key part of a well-rounded substance abuse treatment program

Reach out to a representative today for more information, or to begin the enrollment process.