Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

Addiction Counseling and Treatment

Addiction Counseling and Treatment

Addiction is a complicated condition that affects 20.7 million Americans, with 2.5 million receiving specialized treatment for substance use as reported by American Addiction Centers. Addiction is predisposed by a variation of psychological (tiredness, Paranoia, Poor memory, agitation, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness and mood swings), behavioral (poor performance at work/school, social withdrawal from activities, diminished interest in events and hobbies that used to find interesting, engagement/preoccupation in risky behaviors such as sex, alcohol, and drugs despite the negative consequences) and physical symptoms (lack of care towards physical appearance/personal hygiene and disturbed sleeping patterns).

Psychotherapy is a type of talking therapy in which a psychotherapist tries to help their client overcome psychiatric conditions relating to mental health as well as behavioral addictions. There are several techniques involved in effective treatments through psychotherapy which counselors can use as part of their services. Therapists who would like to work on an individual’s thought patterns and how they affect behavior may choose to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Other professionals may also use Psychodynamic Therapy which focuses on an individual’s perspective, feelings as well as thoughts rather than one’s behavior, or Interpersonal Therapy which emphasizes the role of interpersonal relationships during recovery. Other mental health specialists use strategies like Motivational Interviewing as well as Contingency Management to support recovery.

Whether you are curious about the recovery process or are interested in addiction treatment program options, online addiction treatments that use online therapy or mental health support services may offer convenient support for substance use disorders, internet addiction, as well as any other mental health conditions.

Relevant Articles

Major Causes of Substance Abuse

Factors such as the environment, genetics, body/brain as well as support system shape whether or not a person develops a substance abuse addiction.


To understand the development of an addiction one needs to establish the characteristics which involve: Access to substances, Neighborhood Concentrated Disadvantage, and Disorder.

Much body of research indicates that the attraction of alcohol is due to the proximity of alcohol outlets (stores/bars/shops selling alcohol) which has been associated with increased alcohol consumption amongst adults, teenagers, and adults. This shows access to resources greatly influences addictive behaviors. Further research has posed the question about whether access to substances to fuel addiction is due to racial background and Socioeconomic status, with evidence suggesting that tobacco selling was most common in areas where minorities (Hispanics, African Americans) most commonly lived.

Low educational attainment and high unemployment refer to disordered neighborhoods. Disordered neighborhoods can be characterized by graffiti, noise, vandalism, violence, and crime within the community. Evidence has suggested that lack of social control in neighborhoods means substance abuse is employed as a coping mechanism to chronic stress


Genetics is another factor shaping the development of an addiction. The levels of the gene CHRNA2 expressed in the brain are controlled by the genetic locus on chromosome 8 as identified in research interested in the genes that put people at risk for abuse of usage of cannabis. Lower levels of CHRNA2 in the cerebellum, particularly, are associated with cannabis use and diagnosis of addiction at a younger age as noted in an article by the National Institute of Drug Abuse: Advancing Addiction Science. Further research has also not underestimated the location of genes in influencing the development of addictions. National Institute of Drug Abuse: Advancing Addiction Science mentioned research acknowledged that for the 400 locations in genomes at least 566 variants influence alcohol and smoking use. In addition, this same piece of research found that CUL3, PDE4B, and PTGER3 constituted all phenotypes referring to smoking and alcohol.

What have twin studies said about addiction in relation to genetic predisposition? Exposure to a substance as well as unique, shared environments can say a lot about the development of an addiction. Research has shown that genetic factors (34% variance), environment (28% variance), and nonshared environment (38% variance) had significant influences on similarities in the development of risk towards drug addiction. With twin studies, there is a debate concerning the influence of twin pair types in dependency. Evidence suggests that DZ female twins are more likely to develop dependence, abuse, and usage of substances than MZ female twins.

Your Body and Brain

An article in the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Advancing Addiction Science mentioned the profound effect drugs can have on various parts of the brain such as the basal ganglia, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. Positive forms of motivation such as eating, sex as well as socializing are functions of the basal ganglia and with drugs, the circuit is over-activated, desensitizing pleasure from anything. Stressful emotions such as anxiety and irritability are controlled by the amygdala and represent withdrawal after the drug is high, encouraging the individual to seek the drug again. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the organization and problem-solving. A person with a substance abuse condition will hence act on their compulsion and have a deficiency in impulse control.

There can be a drastic effect of substance addiction on the body internally. Alcohol and drugs can cause internal problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Support System

How embedded you are in your community may make a contribution to your determination to get better. Support from family members, peers, and friends is important as it influences our daily lives. A person's commitment to recovery is influenced if their partner, parents, or other individuals offer support. Christakis and Fowler mentioned that risky social behaviors are dependent on social networks through which people imitate those they surround themselves which implies the strength of social control and influence as mentioned by an article titled “The Recovery Paradigm: A model of hope and change for alcohol and drug addiction.” Research supporting this idea found that relapse rates for those with alcohol addiction who had support from their social network were much lower than those without a supportive social network in the same article.

Healing From a Dependency on Drugs and Alcoholism

Research has informed us that stable recovery from first substance abuse takes 27 years. Experts believe that healing from dependency on drugs and alcohol can depend on many factors involving the individual, their community, their support group, culture, and education. These factors assure abstinence and sobriety. Sheedy & Whitter (2013) suggested that there are 12 steps to understanding recovery. These steps involve self-direction/empowerment, hope/gratitude, addressing discrimination, etc. Examples of key recovery support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alanon, and SMART Recovery.

The Physical Symptoms of Addiction

Compulsion and addiction to substances can influence the physical appearance of the individual. External or outer effects of drugs and alcohol can involve gum disease, cavities, unhealthy-looking skin (pale in appearance), hair and nails, and significant weight loss. Other physical symptoms include unexplained bruises or marks, slow/staggering walk, glazed/red eyes, excessive sweating, vomiting, deterioration of hygiene. Physicians can help address any concerns and symptoms after an assessment during or prior to the case management.

Dealing with Habits and Compulsions Through Psychotherapy

One way to deal with habits and compulsions can involve psychotherapy methods such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). CBT aims to restructure the negative thoughts into more positive thoughts. Diclemente's stages of change model can refer to the CBT elements of exposure (encouraging the individual to think about their triggers and challenge any compulsive behavior), keeping a journal/diary, and doing homework.

Initially, people struggle to admit they have a problem which refers to the pre-contemplation stage (first stage), The second stage involves keeping a diary to track the frequency of your behavior and the impact it has on you in everyday life. Handy applications of journals or diaries include Moodscope and MoodJournal. Thinking about the long-term and short-term implications of modifying behavior comes under this stage too. An example of a cost and benefits analysis can be the short-term effect of pleasure in terms of positive consequences (e.g. porn/sex addiction).

The feeling of guilt can be a short-term negative consequence. Reflecting on previous occasions where your where your behaviors and habits have had less control over you and consideration of how you feel about your support system may help break the compulsion to engage in these behaviors more often.

The final stage that can explain the usefulness of CBT in addiction therapy can be the action stage where you are thinking about your goals as well as challenging yourself to test your addiction beliefs. Examples can include beliefs about: Perceived negative impact about reducing drugs or alcohol addiction, Inability to cope with moods without sex, drugs, alcohol, food, Importance of limiting triggers, and the Rewards and benefits of the addiction behavior (e.g. you might feel you are a happier person when you take a drink than when you are not and may want to challenge this).

7 Cups has online therapy services that you can consider as an online treatment option. Mental health professionals at 7 Cups offer individual therapy and use different approaches to help individuals struggling with addiction including alcohol abuse. The therapy sessions do not require scheduled appointments, and communication can be made with your therapist at any time via text messages during the weekdays. The online platform is also available through a mobile device using the 7 Cups App and has other free features such as growth paths, online peer chatrooms, as well as trained volunteer listeners.

Featured Contributors

Kathy Wenzel

Kathy is the editor of a leading regional publication in Michigan with personal experience with and a passion for mental health issues.

Rachel Cherry White

Rachel Cherry White has a degree in Family & Community Services and is a strong proponent of psychological well being, truly believing that everyone can and should live their best life.

S. K.

S.K. believes in telling her story so that others may not feel so alone.

Erin Gallagher

Erin Gallagher is a spiritually bent Addiction & Recovery Specialist who uses Tarot, the Akashic Records, Energy Healing and Reiki to support her clients in healing emotional trauma and loving themselves back into wholeness.