Exposure therapy in addiction treatment

Exposure therapy in addiction treatment

Exposure therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy technique that is often used in the treatment of PTSD and phobias, but exposure therapy is also used in addiction treatment. Exposure therapy in addiction treatment works the same way it does when it is used to treat PTSD and phobias.

Exposure therapy in addiction treatment, just like when it is used for patients with PTSD, is intended to help the patient face and gain control of their addiction. The way exposure therapy in addiction treatment does this is by literally exposing the addict or alcoholic to certain fears, triggers, traumas and stressors. Exposure therapy is done carefully so as not to flood the patient but rather build up to the most severe stressors. The point of this exposure therapy is to desensitize the addict or alcoholic to potential stressors and triggers.

There are many studies that point towards alcoholics and addicts having automatic responses to cues such as seeing as alcohol or places they may have used. Much like when someone who is hungry sees food wants to eat they believe that the alcoholic responds to alcohol in the same way. So in order to combat this exposure therapy in addiction treatment, literally exposes the alcoholic to cues that would normally create a response or want to drink in the alcoholic and gives the alcoholic or addict coping methods or techniques to use to combat and eventually no longer respond in the old way they used to.

Exposure therapy in addiction treatment is a very new concept that doesn’t have a lot of proof of effectiveness to back it up. The rates of relapse after someone has been through exposure therapy have not been studied. While exposure therapy for PTSD has been effective for the treatment of trauma and stress there has been no proof that it will work in addiction treatment. In fact, exposure therapy in addiction treatment could end up having the opposite effect, instead of helping actually hurting the alcoholic.

In one study this is what they had to say about exposure therapy in addiction treatment:

“There continues to be little evidence for the superior efficacy of Cue Exposure Therapy (CET) over other forms of substance abuse treatment. However, it should be emphasized that the efficacy trials did not find CET to be ineffective; indeed CET subjects improved significantly from baseline, though these improvements did not differ from the other active treatment conditions.”

And of course there are all the other problems that anyone who is in the addiction treatment field knows: “Studies investigating Cue Exposure Therapy continue to be challenged by a number of methodological problems, including small sample sizes, high dropout rates, lack of objective measures of substance use and lack of procedures for preventing substance use between extinction sessions.”

The truth about addiction and alcoholism most likely is that any kind of addiction treatment is better than no treatment at all. But when it comes to treating alcoholism and addiction, in my opinion, how can you possibly expect an alcoholic to want to stop drinking by exposing them to things that make them want to drink; even with the better tools to cope with it etc.



Exposure Therapy and PTSD

Expsoure Therapy and PTSD

Exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After a traumatic event, many individuals experience distress and other symptoms of PTSD. The distress may be highest when dealing with the memories, thoughts, feelings and situations related to the traumatic event.

Exposure Therapy and PTSD: Why is it used?

Exposure therapy is a commonly used therapy for treatment of anxiety disorders, specific phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is common for people to avoid situations that remind them of a trauma, because it may bring up negative or uncomfortable emotions. If you experienced trauma by once being trapped in an elevator, you may climb 9 flights of stairs to avoid going in one. If you have PTSD from your time serving in the military, you may avoid places where there will be loud noises or decline to watch movies or T.V. shows that depict war scenes. Aside from inconveniencing yourself and other people, avoiding things that remind you of trauma means that you are never able to overcome it. In fact, avoiding situations that cause remind you of your trauma may make your fears even worse.

Exposure Therapy and PTSD: How does it work?

Exposure therapy for PTSD exposes you to the situations or objects you fear. The idea is that if you are repeatedly exposed to things that cause you to relive your trauma, you will eventually get over your fear, and stop associating those things with traumatic events. Exposure therapy for PTSD involves either you confronting the situations in real life or your therapist directing you to imagine the scary situation.    Virtual reality exposure (VRE) therapy is a modern but effective treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and has been tested on several active duty Army soldiers using an immersive computer simulation of military settings.

Exposure Therapy and PTSD: What are the goals?     

The goal of exposure therapy and PTSD is to help reduce a person’s fear or anxiety. The ultimate goal is to eliminate avoidance behavior and improve quality of life. Eventually, the hope is the patient will be able to go into situations they once feared without any distress or PTSD symptoms. Standard treatment consists of 8-15 sessions conducted once or twice weekly for 90 minutes each. The duration of treatment can be shortened or lengthened depending on the needs of the client and his or her rate of progress.

Exposure Therapy and PTSD:   What does it entail?

Exposure therapy for PTSD has four main parts:

1. Education: Exposure therapy for PTSD starts with education about the treatment. The patient learns about common trauma reactions and PTSD. It allows them to learn more about their symptoms and to understand the goals of treatment.

2. Breathing: Relaxation techniques like controlled breathing are taught before the actual exposure. This is so the patient knows how to control anxiety and fear to manage distress.

3. Real World Practice: This is the part of exposure therapy for PTSD where the patient is exposed to the situation that causes distress either by guided memory, real life exposure, or virtual reality exposure.

4. Talking through the trauma: Talking through the trauma memory over and over can help the patient get more control about the thoughts and the feelings about the trauma.