The Benefits of Counselling in Recovery

Published On: September 20, 2023

If you’re living with problematic or addictive substance use, at some point someone will mention counselling.

You might have heard of it in relation to treating stress, mental health conditions, and bereavement. Counselling is an essential part of many peoples’ lives and many clients often feel it positively changes their lives.

People usually seek counselling when things are going wrong or they’re at a crisis point. Through the NHS alone, in 2017 it was reported that 1.4 million people were referred to therapy.[1]

This doesn’t even take into account all those who access counselling through charity organisations, addiction services, and the private sector.

There are particular types of counselling that are commonly used in the recovery field. You might have heard of cognitive behavioural therapy which is heavily relied upon by the NHS as well, motivational interviewing and family therapy are also regularly used.

There are other forms that might be mentioned to you and if you’re thinking of entering rehab, you’re likely to participate in a variety of these.

Call our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108 for more help.

What is addiction?

A person with clasped hands, thinking

Addiction is a condition that affects a person mentally as well as physically. Some people, according to the substance they use and how heavily they use will develop dependency. This is when the body comes to rely on the substance in order to function normally.

This makes withdrawal especially challenging and even dangerous in some cases. A person can enter rehab and have a medical detox that will wean them off the substance in a managed and safe way.

What has to be pointed out, though, is that unless those receiving treatment have therapeutic input, it’s highly likely that they’ll relapse if all they’ve had is a detox.

Addiction is very much a mental and emotional condition just as much as it is physical. The mental aspect is why recovery takes time, commitment, and the focus to learn new skills and develop a different mindset.

This is mainly achieved through therapies and counselling.

What is counselling?

Five people in a circle of armchairs, talking

In the UK, counselling and therapy (or psychotherapy) are terms that are often used interchangeably. Counselling is a psychological treatment that uses talking, communication, and sometimes activities or exercises to help a person improve mental well-being and behaviours.

It’s a treatment that takes place in a safe space where the client shares and explores various topics with a trained professional. The client is likely to develop skills and new ways of thinking that will come to underpin new behaviours.

There are different types of counselling such as Person’s Centred, Gestalt, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and art therapy etc.

What is the point of counselling?

Three people writing at a table during therapy

There are many ways in which counselling supports a person. It’s a process that helps a person to develop tools that they can use.

This might include, as an example, a person who struggles with anxiety using Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT) when they’re emotionally distressed.

This is an exercise that includes tapping the body in certain places in order to activate the polyvagal nerve which helps calm you down.

Some therapists offer education within their sessions. This helps a person to understand themselves on a deeper level. For instance, where a person has learnt to react in a certain way, it could be linked to experiences in childhood.

Understanding your behaviours through the lens of a counselling modality can help you come to a space of self-compassion.

Many people form new coping mechanisms and this might be practised through “homework” which helps you practise new strategies and ways to mentally and emotionally regulate.

It could be that to help yourself develop new thought patterns you regularly repeat positive affirmations or keep a journal about a particular theme.

Depending on the type of therapy you do, there might be some focus on the past and coming to terms with things that have happened. The goal of this is to help you resolve any issues or unprocessed emotions.

Regular therapy can help to create a new mindset as you build self-compassion, self-awareness, and resilience. It helps you be honest with yourself about things that do and don’t help you in life.

It will support you to identify triggers (i.e. places/people), support mental healing and behavioural change.

Call our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108 for more help.

What makes counselling so important in addiction recovery?

A man sitting with a female therapist who is holding a clipboard

As mentioned earlier, counselling is a psychological approach that addresses the psychology of addiction. It helps people understand the root causes of their addiction and painful experiences.

It helps people learn how to manage distress healthily, which is important in managing emotions without substances.

It supports you to identify and understand triggers, environmental cues, and peer influences and how they play a part in addiction and also how to alter yourself in relation to these. All of this supports you to manage the risk of relapse more successfully as well.

Finally, counselling helps you to improve your communication skills and this helps rebuild and develop new relationships. This is really useful in creating a positive network of support.

How therapy supports your mental health

A young woman in a beanie and glasses, smiling

As you’ll start to understand the ways in which therapy supports you around addiction, all these tools and the deeper self-awareness that occurs are also beneficial to managing mental health conditions.

Many people with addictions also have mental health symptoms (i.e. anxiety, depression, and psychosis) and this is referred to in the professional field as a dual diagnosis.

Treatment often includes counselling that supports people to cope better in both areas. Also, when you start healing one area, it usually has a positive impact on supporting you to feel better in the other.

Group therapies in the rehabilitation environment

Two women talking

Counselling skills and modalities are used in both individual and group settings, though it’s only considered therapy or treatment if the person facilitating is qualified.

Though 12 Step groups are an incredibly important part of recovery support, they aren’t a therapy; they’re a peer approach.

Group therapy can be found in rehab centres. An experienced member of staff will guide discussion and might ensure particular topics and coping strategies are covered.

Group therapy is instrumental for:

  • Reducing isolation
  • Offering a safe space to the vulnerable (which is a really important practice to become comfortable with as it empowers you)
  • Providing community support
  • Helping you to become accountable
  • Offering new perspectives and opening your mind to alternatives
  • Building confidence as people come to respect and value your input
  • Feeling cared for and valued
  • Building healthy friendships and discovering mentoring opportunities

Call our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108 for more help.

Therapies offered in private clinics

alcoholic spouse

There are therapies that are more commonly used in the rehab environment. This is usually because they’ve been found to be particularly helpful in treating addiction.

Before entering a private clinic, you can discuss what therapies are offered. It’s important to go to a clinic where the types of treatments offered suit your preferences.

For instance, some people might be much more open to transactional analysis approaches than to CBT:

  • ACT is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It uses acceptance and various mindfulness techniques to support you to become more flexible in your thought patterns and to reach a place of self-acceptance.
  • CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the most commonly used therapy in the UK. The NHS use it as the main therapy for people who seek mental health support. It’s where you learn about automatic thoughts and how they drive behaviours. From here you develop new, healthy thoughts with the aim of forming healthier behaviours.
  • DBT or Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is usually offered to people who haven’t developed healthy ways to process their emotions. It’s a way of supporting regulation and feeling safer within your own body. It’s also commonly used with people who have personality disorders and those who have experienced trauma.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that supports people to recover from past experiences that have been deeply traumatic. The therapist uses a piece of equipment that leads your eye movements to activate certain parts of the brain and this along with talking therapy reduces your emotional response.
  • Family therapy supports family members to create boundaries, find a place of mutual respect, and to form new ways of communicating. The goal of this is to strengthen relationships.
  • The Matrix Model is a behavioural approach which includes a variety of practices. It is likely to include psycho-education, self-help learning, family therapy, group therapy, and relapse prevention discussions.
  • Motivational Interviewing is very commonly used in the addiction field. It’s important as it helps people to talk about the substance and their substance use in a very honest way. The therapy helps you to explore why you might be resistant to change and eventually supports you to find your true motivations for being in recovery.
  • Transactional Analysis helps people to identify when they’re reacting and communicating to others from their ego state and which ego state they’re in (i.e. “the child”, “the parent”). From here understanding forms and it can support you to find new ways of reacting which can change behaviours.

Can I just have counselling without accessing drug and alcohol services?

Two people holding hands across a table

It is obviously possible to seek out a counsellor privately. While this might be able to help a person with some aspects of addiction, it’s unlikely that they’ll immediately be able to quit the substance.

Counselling usually happens across months, even years in many cases, so takes time. As well as this, a private counsellor is unlikely to have as much experience with addiction as counsellors who practise regularly in the field.

One of the main benefits of rehab is that you get a wide range of different types of counselling. This tackles different parts of psychology and the thought processes behind addiction.

As well as this, they’re happening throughout the day every day that you’re there so this reinforces what you’re absorbing. The counsellors are also highly experienced in addiction and the issues linked to it.

Call our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108 for more help.

Final thoughts…

Counselling is an integral part of recovery. From it, people are supported to develop a new mindset and reach a place of deep self-awareness and self-compassion.

This is imperative for the healing process to take place. As well as this it offers you many skills and education that can alter how you react in order to support behavioural changes.

In rehab centres, there are many types of therapeutic approaches provided by highly experienced staff. This along with the regularity of treatments helps bring about change and abstinence.

To find out more about rehab centres near you, contact the Rehab 4 Alcoholism team today.



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