In the first entry in this miniseries about the different kinds of therapy, we explored cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and family systems therapy.
Finding the Right Therapeutic Approach
Our point, as you may recall, is that “therapy” is a generic word that can be applied to quite a number of more specific practices—in the same way that the word “cereal” might accurately describe everything in a variety pack without giving you any insight into the kinds of cereal in question.
The distinctions between the kinds of therapy are, of course, important. You need the right therapy at the right time to help address a mental health disorder. To extend our cereal comparison, you don’t want to find yourself eating sugary cereal when what you were hoping for was a healthier option.
Let’s take a look at four more specific therapeutic approaches used to improve quality of life for those struggling with mental health issues and/or substance use disorder.
This might be the name that seems the most like an oxymoron. After all, we don’t usually think of therapy as something that one engages in for recreational purposes. But recreational therapy does, in fact, involve recreational activities. What those activities turn out to be varies from person to person as a recreational therapist takes into account a person’s interests, their abilities and disabilities, and where they are in their overall mental health care journey. Recreational therapy can lead to a reduction in stress or anxiety and an increase in self-confidence and sense of sustained interest.
Experiential therapy involves, as the name implies, experiences—both experiences from the past that may have been traumatic and new experiences that can help a person release negative emotions attached to those traumatic events. A person undergoing experiential therapy may investigate these past experiences via guided imagery, role play, arts and crafts projects, or any of a number of other options. The goal is to identify the specific emotions a person associates with those experiences, which makes it easier to handle those emotions and leave the past in the past.
It is important to remember that problems are separate from the people who experience those problems. That is a central idea of narrative therapy, which positions the person in therapy as the expert when it comes to their own life. This therapeutic approach acknowledges that we often build up narratives about our own lives—and those narratives are often negative. Narrative therapy invites us to redefine the way we think of ourselves, our abilities, and our abilities to solve problems we face. In a very real sense, narrative therapy is the process of rewriting the story you tell yourself about yourself.
Expressive Creative Arts Therapy
The arts are a wonderful way to express emotions—and that’s the idea at the heart of expressive creative arts therapy. The art in question will vary from person to person based on their individual interests, but music, the various visual arts, dance, drama, or writing of any kind can all be effective in a therapeutic setting. This approach to therapy can be particularly effective for those who are having trouble coming to terms with strong emotions related to loss or trauma. It is important to note that expressive creative arts therapy is not about mastering an artform (though building artistic skills may be a welcome side effect). Instead, artistic practice is a tool for channeling and investigating emotions.
Mental Health & Sobriety Are Connected
Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are often closely connected. After all, a person experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue may well be tempted to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Soon enough, that strategy develops into a substance use disorder.
And the reverse can be true as well. As a person sinks into a substance use disorder they may well undermine their overall mental well-being.
That is why it is so important to address co-occurring mental health disorders during rehabilitation from a substance use disorder. And it is equally important to maintain good mental health as a strategy for maintaining sobriety over time.
We Will Identify the Best Therapeutic Approach for You
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we understand the importance of personalization when it comes to treatment of substance use and mental health disorders. You can count on our experience and expertise as well as our compassion and commitment to a continuum of care. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help you turn things around so that you can reclaim your life.