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Targeted Therapies for Addiction


Since 1988 our staff have established a comprehensive range of specialised therapies that target addictions and the obstacles that can prevent recovery. At Smarmore Castle, personalised treatment programmes are tailored to include therapies that suit individual needs. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to recovering from addiction.

What are Targeted Therapies for Addiction?

Smarmore Castle employs a range of therapies to support its 12-Step model for addiction treatment. As part of a personalised care plan, a range of therapies may be included to ‘target’ someone’s needs. For example, not all patients will need to have trauma therapy but almost everyone will partake in group therapy. The primary or targeted therapies employed by Smarmore Castle are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), trauma/PTSD therapy, bereavement therapy, group therapy, and complementary therapies.

What are Behavioural Therapies?

Behavioural therapy is an umbrella term for types of therapy that treat mental health disorders. This type of clinical psychotherapy uses techniques derived from behaviourism and/or cognitive psychology to identify and change self-destructive or unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Behavioural therapy is based on the idea that behaviours are learned and can be changed or unlearned.

Behavioural therapy can benefit people with a wide range of disorders, most commonly addiction, depression, anxiety, panic disorders, anger issues, eating disorders, and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and self-harm.

Behaviour therapy does not involve one specific methodology but covers a wide range of techniques.

Behavioural therapy makes use of techniques such as systematic desensitisation and aversion therapy. Systematic desensitisation helps people to become less sensitive to certain triggers and is often used in the treatment of phobias. Aversion therapy is used to treat substance use disorder, teaching people to associate a stimulus that’s pleasant but unhealthy with an extremely unpleasant stimulus.

How Can Therapy Help in Addiction?

Addiction is a disorder characterised by a persistent urge to use a substance or engage in specific behaviours that alter mood, despite harm and negative consequences. Repetitive addictive behaviour often alters brain function, specifically its reward system, in ways that perpetuate craving. Signs of addiction include compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, preoccupation with substances or behaviour, and continued addictive activity despite negative consequences. Examples of drug and behavioural addictions include alcoholism, stimulant addiction, sedative addiction, nicotine addiction, video game addiction, gambling addiction, and sex addiction.

Some addiction therapy options provide coping mechanisms and relapse prevention strategies to help those struggling with addiction deal with cravings and life’s triggers. Other therapies focus on underlying issues that trigger addictive behaviour. For instance, addictions have a significant rate of comorbidity with other mental disorders. As such, substance abuse may initially have been a way of self-medicating to relieve negative symptoms of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, mood and personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), and developmental trauma. Addiction therapy can address these issues to remove the need to self-medicate and prevent mental disorders from triggering a relapse.

Which Types of Therapies Are Commonly Used in Addiction?

Therapies can be practised in a variety of settings, take many forms, and last for different lengths of time. Addiction is generally experienced as a chronic disorder and relapses are common. As such treatment may be a long-term process that involves different types of therapy used along the way.

Personalised Therapies

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a personalised ‘talking therapy’ that changes negative thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that block recovery. CBT helps clients identify triggers that could lead to relapse, changing their responses and therefore the outcome. CBT also helps clients learn how to avoid negative feelings and address situations in a more positive and assertive manner.

Family Therapy

The involvement of family members, friends and colleagues in addiction treatment helps to create strong support networks which are vital for recovery. The stronger the support networks are on leaving treatment, the better the outcome for clients. Family therapy helps to rebuild broken relationships and educates family networks on the disease of addiction. This assists family members in understanding the behaviours of addicts and how to respond in a way that best serves them.

Trauma (PTSD)

Trauma-informed addiction therapy treats addictions and associated mental health conditions such as trauma concurrently. There are various therapies and techniques used to help treat the symptoms of trauma. These may include compassionate and respectful one-to-one therapy,  CBT, 12 steps, complementary therapies, and equine therapy.

Gambling Addiction Treatment

Gambling addiction therapy is based on the 12-step treatment model, combined with CBT. This programme helps gambling addicts to understand their addiction, recognise what they want in place of gambling, build self-esteem, assertiveness and impulse control, and manage any debts and general finances. CBT helps patients with gambling addiction through the development of SMART goals. This practical theory enables patients to measure their progress through small but significant steps.

Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is an illness whereby a problematic relationship with food has developed commonly alongside other traits, such as negative body image, perfectionism, impulsivity and low self-esteem. Group-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is drawn upon to treat eating disorders. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend CBT-BN for bulimia nervosa, CBT-BED for binge eating disorder and interpersonal psychotherapy and/or family therapy for anorexia nervosa.

Bereavement Therapy

Addiction can be exacerbated by unresolved grief and bereavement therapy can help clients navigate the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — so they can learn to understand and manage their feelings, avoiding relapse in the process. Bereavement therapy groups, individual therapy sessions and cognitive behavioural therapy are often used concurrently to treat bereaved clients.

Women-Only Addiction Therapy

Women-only therapy is specifically tailored to help women with addiction issues. It is a safe space for women to open up about experiences that they may not feel comfortable discussing in a mixed-gender group. In this setting, their emotions will be validated, and they will receive support from other women who may share their experiences.

Smoking Cessation

The start of an inpatient treatment programme is a very good time to quit smoking.  It helps patients to achieve the very best mental and physical health possible. Smoking cessation therapy is a non-compulsory therapy offered to patients who are already at Smamore Clinic and receiving treatment for addiction.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) was developed to treat the symptoms of borderline personality disorder and emotional regulation disorder such as suicidal ideation and depression. DBT consists of four elements – core mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is sometimes compared with CBT but has its own approach. ACT is based on relational frame theory, which focuses on mental processes and human language. ACT teaches mindfulness and acceptance strategies with the goal of increasing psychological flexibility.

Group Addiction Therapy

Relapse Prevention Group

Specific relapse prevention groups maximise insight into addiction and identify triggers that could cause patients to relapse once they leave rehab. Using a range of evidence-based addiction therapies and group work targets any underlying factors that have contributed to someone’s addiction, making sure all issues from their past and present are addressed, preventing relapse.

Eating Disorders Group Therapy

Group therapy is an excellent source of support for those with eating disorders. The benefits of eating disorders group therapy include eating disorder education, defence against isolation, peer support, and compassionate confrontation of unhealthy behaviours. Eating disorder-specific groups are helpful when someone is being treated for an eating disorder in a facility that caters to addictions and other behavioural health concerns, like those recovering from eating disorders have needs and behaviours to change that are specific to food disorders.

Body Image Group Therapy

Body image group therapy is a space for those struggling with self-esteem as related to body image to unpack their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. The group setting is an excellent forum to unpick beauty standards, the subliminal messages we receive from diet culture about self-worth, and the morality of food (food being good or bad/clean or unclean). How cultural, familial, and social factors contribute to poor body image may also be explored.

Adult Children of Alcoholics Group

Adult Children of Alcoholics is a support group for those who suffered from emotional damage due to alcoholic or dysfunctional parents. It is also recommended that those who experienced this in their childhood have specific therapy sessions on this issue.

Other Specialist Therapies

Coping Skills Therapy

Coping skills play an important part in recovery from addiction as they’re what we use to respond to life’s stressors or addiction triggers. Coping skills therapy helps clients employ healthy emotional, cognitive, and behavioural strategies when they encounter problems or triggers. This reduces stress, builds confidence and reduces the chances of relapse.  

Cross-Addiction Therapy

Cross-addiction refers to having two addictions at one time or moving from one addiction to another. It can also mean engaging in any addictive behaviour that can lead back to the addiction of choice. Therapy for cross-addiction can help you start to see the warning signs of cross-addiction and apply healthy coping strategies to manage it, preventing relapse.

Women’s group therapy

Adult women of all ages are brought together in a therapeutic community to provide a safe and supportive space to share their feelings. Many women feel more comfortable in single-sex groups to discuss the issues that affect women almost exclusively. Women’s groups are led by female addiction therapists.

Relationship Therapy

Relationship therapy helps to repair dysfunctional relationships, learn about conflict resolution, and improve communication. According to the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, 1.2 million people are affected by drug abuse in their families or close networks. With a lot of trust and honesty, it is possible for relationships to be mended during recovery.

Complimentary therapies

Drumming Therapy

Drum therapy promotes self-expression and healing by either listening to the sound of drumming or actively participating in drumming. Research shows that drumming strengthens physical healing, increases a sense of wellbeing, boosts the immune system, and improves self-confidence. Drumming therapy also has proven to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and lessen the attention on chronic pain.

Art Therapy

Art therapy helps clients channel self-expression and can be extremely useful for people suffering from addiction, especially those who struggle to communicate in group therapy or private therapy sessions. Art can help evoke a sense of self-confidence and provide clients with ways to understand and cope with their addiction.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is an artistic form of therapy that uses music to improve and maintain psychological, physical, and social wellbeing. Music therapy can take many forms such as singing, listening to music, or playing a musical instrument. This mode of therapy is used in rehabs, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities, schools, and hospices to help clients express the unexpressed.

Equine Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy is an active psychotherapeutic intervention involving horses and guided by a trained equine therapist. Therapy can be conducted on an individual or group basis depending on the addiction treatment needs. People suffering from alcohol and drug addiction, trauma (including PTSD and dissociative process), low self-esteem, eating disorders, learning difficulties, anxiety and depression can all benefit from therapy with horses.

Are Holistic Therapies Effective in Treating Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

Holistic treatment is a set of therapy approaches that target all aspects of a person’s health. Research shows that some holistic therapies such as drumming, yoga, and mindfulness can target multiple psychological, neural, physiological, and behavioural processes implicated in addiction and relapse. In addition, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, hypnosis, herbal medicine, light therapy, spiritual healing, and art therapy have been shown to improve core disorder symptoms. Holistic therapies are now an integral part of addiction treatment programmes, working alongside more traditional individual and group therapies.

Importantly, these complementary therapies balance out the heavy emotional work done during group sessions and 1-to-1 therapies. Patients must also have the opportunity to relax, unwind and reconnect with lost hobbies like music or art.

The treatment at Smarmore is holistic because we understand that a complex illness like addiction must be tackled from all available angles

Last updated & clinically assessed 28 June, 2022