Attending Therapy While in Sober Living

People who live in a sober living community are expected to continue to work on their addictions, making progress in the fight against the urge to use and abuse substances. They’re also expected to continue to learn how to manage any underlying mental health conditions that might be contributing to their addictions. As a result, most people are simply expected to visit their therapists on a regular basis, and they might even be required to provide proof that they’ve been seen. Understanding the reasoning behind this rule might make compliance a little easier for people who live inside the walls of a sober living community like this.

Knowledge Is Power

therapy and sober livingAt the beginning of a treatment program for addiction, people spend a significant amount of time talking with a therapist and working on the addiction issue. They might also discuss their mental health and the methods that can be used to keep that issue under control. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the intensive phase of care typically lasts for about six weeks, and during this time, people might be asked to work with a therapist almost every day. In the past, when that intensive period ended, clients were often allowed to just return to their normal, day-to-day lives, and they broke off connections with their therapists in the process. Now, most experts believe that this kind of cut-off of care just isn’t helpful.

Addictions and some mental illnesses are chronic conditions similar to heart disease and asthma, in that people who have these disorders need to make all-encompassing changes that might impact the way they:

therapy challengesThese aren’t the sorts of changes that can be made overnight, and they aren’t the sorts of amendments that can be made just once, and then ignored from that point forward. In fact, people with addictions might need multiple rounds of therapy in order to gain control, and they might need different types of help in the recovery process. Similarly, some people with mental illnesses need to learn how to manage their mental health over their lifespan, and they may always be at risk of relapsing to illness. As a result, most therapy programs now provide step-down, tapering care when intensive programs are through.

A tapering therapy program allows people to visit with a therapist frequently in the beginning of the recovery process, and then slowly those appointments might space out just a little, allowing the person to shoulder more of the responsibility for healing. As an article produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explains, therapy sessions that were held daily might be held twice per week, and then perhaps once per week. In time, people might even attend therapy just once or twice per month, and they might have group sessions instead of individual care.

Topics Covered in Addiction Therapy

While the issues discussed in these sessions might relate to almost any part of the person’s life, most therapists focus on helping their clients to develop a robust relapse prevention program. They might be asked to identify situations in which they’ve been tempted to use, for example, and they might be asked to come up with plans that could help them to avoid these situations. Clients might also be asked to discuss the current state of their lives, and their possibly waning desire to stay sober. All of these discussions can help therapists assess risk and really help clients to build on the lessons they’ve learned in therapy. The focus is on the future and on empowerment here, and that could help clients to take charge of their lives from this point forward.

Topics Covered in Mental Health Therapy

therapistWhile people who have addictions might be able to step down from therapy until they’re not seeing a mental health professional in any capacity, some mental illnesses require treatment throughout the lifespan. For example, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 percent of Americans have schizophrenia, and those who do may need to cope with symptoms throughout their lives. The severity of the symptoms may wax and wane, but they may always be lurking in the background. Similarly, people who have an episode of major depression may always have an advanced risk of developing depression in the future. These sorts of illnesses can leave their marks on a person’s mind, and lifelong therapy might be key to keeping problems under control.

As a result, people with some mental illnesses and addictions may be able to taper away from their addiction therapy, but they may always need to visit with a therapist for their mental health concerns. The meetings may not last for long periods of time, and the therapy may seem mild and easy to comply with, but the ongoing care can be vital. Therapists can ensure that clients are continuing to succeed in their lives and that symptoms of illness aren’t creeping back into the picture, and clients can continue to learn about how the illness impacts their ability to think clearly about the world around them.

Therapy techniques used in these sessions can vary, but common approaches include:

  • Individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Group skills-building therapy
  • Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Family therapy

Group setting are common for people in long-term care for mental illness, as these therapy sessions allow a mental health professional to assist many people at the same time. Large groups can have their own benefits, however, as people who attend these meetings are often encouraged to chime in with their own opinions and ideas regarding living with a mental illness. People who go to these therapy sessions may walk away with a vigorous understanding of how others have lived with the same disease, and they may be able to put those lessons to good use in their own lives.

Sober living communities may foster this kind of therapy by requiring residents with mental illnesses to keep their appointments as scheduled, and that requirement to attend therapy may never go away, no matter how long the person chooses to live within the walls of the sober living home.

motivationBoosting Motivation

Since some sober living communities require clients to attend their therapy sessions, this might be the only prompt some people need in order to ensure they attend. After all, for facilities with this kind of strict rule system, refusing to comply with the list could mean leaving the facility for good. That being said, there are some therapists who use some tricks and tips in order to ensure that their clients stay motivated to attend their therapy sessions as scheduled.

Contingency management is one such technique, and it could be helpful for some people. Here, clients are provided with small prizes for each therapy session they attend. For example, in one study of the issue in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the prizes clients earned totaled to an average of $200. This isn’t an amount that might break the bank, but it can help some people to feel as though therapy is beneficial in the moment, not just down the line.

Even those who don’t get prizes might be motivated to attend, however, as they’ll have a chance to talk, listen and learn in therapy. It’s an important part of healing, and it’s really not the sort of thing that can be neglected. People with mental illnesses might also be asked to take medications for their concerns, and they might be required to visit with their mental health providers in order to obtain refills for those prescriptions. This might be another prompt that keeps people coming back to appointments as needed.

If you’d like to know more about how therapy fits into a sober living community, and why your appointments might be considered vital, please call us.