Whereas in group therapy, several people in recovery undergo therapy together, in individual therapy, the therapist has a one-to-one session with a single person.
This allows for a much closer relationship between patient and therapist, in which the therapist’s attention can be completely focused on the patient. It gives the therapist an opportunity to build up a rapport with the person in recovery over time, and to learn more about their specific situation and circumstances.
During an individual therapy session, the person in recovery meets with the therapist to discuss their journey of recovery.
The aim of these sessions is for the person undergoing therapy to achieve a greater understanding of their identity and their relationship with substances.
The therapist must be a qualified mental health worker, with considerable training in the field. It is their job to decide on what kind of therapy will be used, when and where the sessions will take place, what the respective responsibilities of both parties are, and so on.
The therapist may ask the person in recovery at the start of treatment to take responsibility for enacting change in his or her life. After all, therapy is about helping the client to help themselves.
Just as the person in recovery takes on this responsibility, the therapist also has responsibilities: to establish boundaries, and to maintain confidentiality.
Maintaining confidentiality is a moral duty of the therapist. That means that the therapist cannot tell anyone what the person in recovery discloses to them during therapy, apart from under very specific circumstances.
The therapist should inform the person in recovery of these circumstances at the start of treatment. They include:
Under no other circumstances can the therapist break confidentiality.
Therapy sessions generally last about an hour and happen once a week. They tend to take place in the therapist’s office, although in theory, they can take place anywhere, as long as it is private.
What happens in each individual therapy session depends on what mode of therapy the therapist has chosen. We will go over a few of these in more detail later on in this informational page.
Some of the topics that may come up in an individual therapy session include:
At the end of the session, the person in recovery and the therapist may work together to come up with some aims for the next session. Examples include going to meetings, refraining from substances or putting into practice a technique learned in therapy.
As well as being a disease in its own right, addiction is often a symptom of underlying trauma or mental health issues.
The root cause of someone’s addiction could be anything from being the victim of abuse to depression to self-medicating for physical health problems such as arthritis or back pain.
Group therapy is not the time to be probing for these underlying issues. For group therapy to be effective, the people in recovery need to have already received some individual therapy, so that they understand their own personal issues and relationship with substances. This allows them to share more confidently in a group setting.
For this reason, individual therapy needs to come first. It provides an opportunity for the therapist to really get to the bottom of the person in recovery’s substance abuse. In many cases, the person in recovery may not have a full idea of why they abuse substances – ‘they just do’. Therapy can address this lack of knowledge, and equip the person in recovery with the tools to kick their habit.
Not only can it help them to get clean, but it can also help them to stay clean. It does so by isolating certain ‘triggers’ which cause addicts to use. These triggers are the key reason why people relapse.
There are various different kinds of triggers. Here are some of the most common ones.
By teaching those in recovery how to recognise and avoid their triggers, individual therapy can make a big impact on someone’s recovery.
Individual therapy offers a range of benefits to the person in recovery. This article has already covered some of these, but here is a more complete list.
There are very few disadvantages to individual therapy, but these are the main ones:
Most of these disadvantages can be overcome simply by attending group sessions as well as individual sessions. Group therapy sessions and individual sessions are not mutually exclusive: in fact, they complement each other very well. Both forms of therapy have been proven to be highly effective in treating addiction.
There are countless varieties of individual therapy, from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), to dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), to holistic therapy, and so on.
Rather than going through all of these forms of therapy in detail, we’re going to take a quick look at one of the most common: CBT.
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is a form of therapy which focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns, creating coping mechanisms, and controlling emotional states.
The aim of CBT is to reduce negative behaviours – such as giving in to cravings – by targeting the negative thoughts from which these behaviours arise.
CBT is a blend of cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy and originated in the early 20th century. It is now one of the most popular forms of individual therapy in addiction treatment.
Here are some pros and cons of CBT:
This informational page has looked at what exactly individual therapy is, how it differs from group therapy, how it works, some and advantages and disadvantages and some of the main forms of individual therapy, including CBT.