Alcoholism and other addictions have been recognized as chronic diseases. The goal of their therapy is therefore to maintain abstinence and develop mechanisms that will allow the addict to enjoy life away from the substance. What does this treatment look like and how are the above goals achieved?
Although addictions are eternal problems accompanying people for generations, and the level of awareness on this subject is constantly rising, stereotypes distorting the idea of the so-called “rehab.” Many people believe that alcoholics are given “miracle” drugs that effortlessly subdue their cravings for the substance.
Some people believe that addiction is a choice and that the way out depends solely on the will of the person who suffers from it. Still others claim that it is enough to isolate the addict from alcohol or drugs or to “scare” them with the consequences of their behavior so that they forget about their problem once and for all and learn to live normally.
All such claims result from ignorance and misunderstanding of the mechanisms of addiction. They are the reason why an alcoholic or drug addict for a very long time does not realize that he has lost control over his life, and even when he is made aware of it and wants to break the vicious circle – he cannot do it.
The first step towards recovery is to motivate the addict to start therapy. This is not an easy task – often slow, gradual indication of the consequences of drinking is not enough and so-called monitoring is necessary. “intervention”. It is a meeting of several people close to the addict who will make him aware of the facts related to his illness. It is also important to refrain from helping the alcoholic: do not pay off his debts, make excuses for his absence from work, or hide him from family and friends. In this way, the patient does not have the opportunity to experience the effects of his behavior, and thus does not see the need to change his behavior
The next stage, which is the proper beginning of treatment, is the so-called basic therapy. It usually takes place in an addiction treatment center or in a clinic with a similar profile. Characteristic features of this phase are the high intensity of therapeutic classes, the predominance of group meetings over individual ones, and a rather schematic program of meetings based on the program of the facility where they are held. Inpatient treatment takes place in groups of seven to fourteen people, lasts five to eight weeks, and patients feel more like at school than in a hospital.
Therapeutic activities lasting several hours a day include group meetings, joint discussion of previously assigned written assignments, mini-lectures, and watching educational films. It can be said that this treatment is based primarily on psychotherapy and psychoeducation. There is no magic pill or injection for this disease, so you need to influence the alcoholic’s psyche with new information and conversations, and equip him with the tools he needs to change the way he thinks and reacts.
The core therapy phase has two phases with different goals. The first is the analysis of alcohol destruction, i.e. making patients aware of the effects of their addictive drinking in various spheres of life. In this way, patients have the opportunity to change their attitude to the current addictive behavior, notice their dramatic consequences and unlock the feelings that have been “drunken” so far.
The second stage of this phase is learning the skills needed to live a sober life. The patient is equipped with the knowledge and skills to help maintain abstinence from alcohol and return to “normal” psychological and social functioning. The most frequently discussed topics are: coping with alcohol craving, preventing relapses, coping with emotions, building and using a support network, time management and assertiveness, with particular emphasis on assertive refusal of alcohol.
When the first phase of therapy comes to an end, the patient is only at the beginning of “sobering up” and his decision to abstain is fragile. He has knowledge and new beliefs about his illness, but he is not yet able to say whether he will be able to turn them into action. Many alcoholics return to drinking several months after leaving the center, which is why the next stage of therapy is needed in an outpatient setting, i.e. in an addiction treatment clinic.
Continuation of treatment is called in-depth therapy, it lasts about twenty-two months and consists of individual meetings with a therapist, a support group and therapeutic workshops. These sessions are usually less schematic, and the therapeutic program is flexible and continuously adapted to the patient’s current needs. The methods of work include: exchange of experiences between group members, support for honest and open communication and analysis of problems currently experienced by the patient.