Detox is not enough: How counselling supports full recovery

Akanksha Pandey

Akanksha Pandey


Addiction encompasses more than just a physical reliance on drugs or alcohol, it’s a chronic illness.

Addiction encompasses more than just a physical reliance on drugs or alcohol, it's a chronic illness. Detoxification, or the removal of drugs and toxins from the body, is the first step in which one learns to control drug cravings while avoiding relapse. The withdrawals can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks but don't completely cure addiction, therefore, for many people, counselling is an important part of their substance abuse treatment.

Recovering addicts are at a high risk of relapsing after detox once their bodies are no longer hooked; 40-60% of recovering addicts relapse due to a variety of psychological and social factors, leading to treatment centres re-evaluating and shifting their approaches from solely focusing on the physical addiction towards more holistic, social, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Counselling assists one in overcoming cravings and learning to cope with life's challenges and aims to change people's behaviours and attitudes as well as strengthens life skills.. Post assessment, a treatment plan based on one's addictions and needs is created. Both Group (supportive of drug rehabilitation) and Individual counselling (addressing mental illness and past trauma) are recommended in the early stages of recovery.

Counselling for recovering addicts has several benefits. By talking to a trained professional, an individual can work through your insecurities, change negative stress reactions, and help people with open communication, honesty, trust, and avoiding codependency. Approximately half of the people who have a substance use disorder also have a mental health problem. Individual counselling is used to treat underlying mental health issues such as anxiety or bipolar depression.

Addicts frequently have low self-esteem, making them vulnerable and prone to critical behaviour. A wide range of treatment options is available once an individual recognizes the negative impact of a substance on their life. The type of addictive disorder, the length and severity of use, and the effects on the individual all influence treatment options for addiction. Regrettably, only a small percentage of those who require assistance are receiving it.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is one type of therapy that helps people recognize and change thinking patterns that are linked to substance abuse. Multi-dimensional family therapy is aimed at improving family function in the context of a teen or adolescent with a substance abuse problem. Motivational interviewing can help in increasing a person's willingness to change and adjust their behaviour through positive reinforcement, and motivational incentives that encourage abstinence through positive reinforcement.

(The author is Consultant - Clinical Psychology, Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore)

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