Behavioral Therapy

Behavior therapy is based on the idea that certain behavior is encouraged by reward and diminished by punishment. This type of therapy is often employed in drug and alcohol treatment. Behavior therapy can address the root cause of drug and alcohol abuse, provide incentives for addicts to abstain from drugs and alcohol, and change addicts’ attitudes about drug and alcohol use. Behavior therapy focuses on changing a patient’s behavior can change the way they are feeling.

Behavioral therapy concentrates on helping a person develop coping mechanisms. Many addicts and alcoholics are unable to handle the stresses of everyday life. They turn to drugs and alcohol to help them deal with uncomfortable situations. Behavior therapy addresses this issue and helps the patient develop tools that can help them deal with stressful or emotionally charged situations.

A common technique of behavior therapy is called self-monitoring.  In this phase of therapy, a person is asked to note or document all of their activities during a given day. This aids the patient in recognizing certain behavioral patterns and the way they react to different situations. A therapist can then go over the patterns and develop alternate activities that a patient can incorporate into their daily routine. Self-monitoring can help and addict or alcoholic recognize drug cravings and to identify high-risk situations.

Another technique of behavior therapy is role-playing. A therapist can act out different situations with a patient to examine reactions to uncomfortable situations. The patient can then try out different ways of reacting in a safe environment. Role-playing can aid the drug addict and alcoholic in developing coping mechanisms for high-risk situations.

Behavior therapy can also help drug addicts and alcoholics recognize stimuli which can trigger drug use. Triggers can be external (people, places, situations) or internal (emotions, thoughts, drug dreams.) Associations between these external and internal stimuli and drug and alcohol use can become very strong if they occur close in time with each other. As the association grows stronger, craving for alcohol or drugs develops when the stimuli occurs.  Behavior therapy focuses on breaking the connection between these triggers and alcohol and/or drug use. By exposing an individual to events that would normally be followed by drug or alcohol use, and controlling the situation so that the individual cannot use drugs or drink alcohol, the events lose some of their power as triggers. This type of therapy is very important in relapse prevention once an individual leaves treatment.

Research indicates that drug addicts and alcoholics who undergo behavior therapy during treatment have a higher rate of success than those that don’t. Changing behavior is essential to the recovery of a drug addict or alcoholic. If a person requires treatment to overcome their drug or alcohol addiction, it is likely that that person was using alcohol and/or drugs as their main coping mechanism. In order to successfully recover from drug and/or alcohol addiction, an individual needs to learn or relearn strategies to deal with their problems that do not involve drugs or alcohol. Behavior therapy is a means by which to this.