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The ever-evolving science of addiction treatment has produced a wide variety of recovery techniques suited to a diversity of clients. Although no two substance abuse treatment facilities offer exactly the same programs or operate in exactly the same manner, many are beginning to incorporate life skills therapy into their protocol. This scientifically tested, empirically proven method of addiction treatment is designed to help eliminate the negative behavioral patterns associated with substance abuse, replacing them with a healthy, functional, sober lifestyle. Regardless of what stage of addiction someone is battling, life skills therapy offers a new lease on life because it is grounded in evidence-based treatment encompassing the mind, body and spirit.
WHAT IS LIFE SKILLS THERAPY?
Life skills therapy describes the process of helping someone suffering from addiction to live a functional life and reintegrate back into society. The nucleus of life skills therapy is comprised of a set of essential skills necessary to live autonomously and productively. These skills include, but are not limited to:
- Job-seeking and interviewing
- Maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle
- Interpersonal communication
- Creating a safe, clean home environment
- On-the-job motivation and success
- Social and professional behavior / etiquette
- Balancing a budget
- Developing a spiritual practice
Necessary skills and skill subsets may vary depending upon the needs of the individual undergoing treatment. Just as no two substance abuse treatment facilities are exactly alike, no two clients have exactly the same needs. Whereas one client may have difficulty balancing a budget, demonstrating fiscal responsibility, or holding a job, another may suffer from social difficulty and toxic lifestyle and/ or dietary habits. Frequently, due to the pathological, isolating nature of addiction, clients struggle in every category and benefit from a broad, all-encompassing approach designed to provide a solid, lasting foundation for post-treatment success.
Outdated substance abuse treatment models operated from a traditional protocol that involved ongoing individual and group psychotherapy combined with pharmacological interventions designed to treat primary substance use disorders (SUDs) and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression. Although this evidence-based method, referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is still considered an integral aspect of addiction treatment, it falls within the broader scope of life skills therapy.
BENEFITS OF LIFE SKILLS THERAPY
The limited benefits associated with a strictly MAT approach are now being overshadowed by the multidimensional benefits attributed to life skills therapy. The following categories demonstrate the numerous ways in which life skills therapy helps clients assimilate into a healthy, functional post-treatment lifestyle:
- Life skills therapy helps provide a solid foundation of financial responsibility and stability. Addiction is extremely costly and, in some cases, financially debilitating. The exorbitant costs associated with maintaining a legal or illicit drug habit, legal fees, increased insurance rates, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and lost productivity at work can all be devastating. Life skills therapy helps an individual regain the responsibility and stability necessary to end this dysfunctional cycle permanently.
- Life skills therapy helps facilitate social and professional integration. Many people use drugs or alcohol as an escape mechanism, a social lubricant to help overcome fears, eliminate insecurities, and lower inhibitions. Life skills therapy helps instill social and professional communication skills that prove invaluable to a client’s recovery, enabling them to live a healthy, responsible lifestyle free from substance dependence.
- Life skills therapy helps create mental clarity, balance and focus. Unfortunately, addiction is a dominating force in people’s lives— one that inevitably leads to unhealthy habits and behaviors. Life skills therapy helps individuals struggling with addiction to reprioritize, focusing on recovery while gradually eliminating the harmful effects of substances on their mental and psychological processes.
- Life skills therapy helps rebuild physical well-being. Substance dependence is notorious for destroying physical health and overloading the body with toxins. Malnutrition and malabsorption are two problems commonly associated with substance dependence; however, every aspect of physical health is impacted— including the heart, liver, lungs, brain, digestion, and many others. Life skills therapy helps reestablish physical health and repair the damage associated with former use, even in extreme cases.
In addition to the four primary pillars discussed above, life skills therapy also helps clients develop a subset of interpersonal skills designed to support autonomous function without the need for addiction. The following long-term benefits are all associated with life skills therapy:
- Anger management – Substance abuse negatively impacts self-control, lowers inhibitions, and makes people more susceptible to anger. In some cases, this can result in violence against others or self-harm. Life skills therapy helps clients effectively deal with intense emotions and resolve external conflicts without resorting to violence.
- Establishing recovery goals – Life skills therapy helps clients develop positive coping mechanisms and remain focused on long-term sobriety. This frequently includes lessons in identifying internal and external triggers and implementing ways to overcome them.
- Family conflict resolution – Addiction is often the result of family dysfunction or, conversely, a precipitating factor in family conflict. Life skills therapy effectively teaches clients how to resolve familial conflict through non-violent communication, clear emotional processing, and establishing healthy boundaries.
- Coping skills – Although they are sometimes confused with recovery goals, coping skills are a separate, integral part of life skills therapy that emphasizes stress management, goal setting, seeing the good in one’s self and others, and remaining focused on positive outcomes in every aspect of life.
- Improved communication – Effective interpersonal communication skills are critical to successful personal and professional relationships. Sadly, addiction negatively affects every aspect of interpersonal communication. Life skills therapy helps clients build successful, lasting relationships while creating greater self-confidence and adaptability.
- Social networking – The interpersonal communication skills taught within life skills therapy also help clients create a sober support network and live a lifestyle focused on healthy, uplifting commitments and relationships.
LONG-TERM TREATMENT OUTCOMES
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction treatment is associated with a 40-60 percent relapse rate. Although this statistic may seem daunting at first glance, closer examination reveals it to be much lower than the rate associated with no treatment. In fact, numerous studies confirm that for those clients making it to a full year of sobriety, relapse rates are less than half. Within that, less than 15 percent of those making it to the five-year sobriety mark suffer from post-treatment relapse. This is particularly encouraging news for those clients who are the recipients of life skills therapy— all of whom receive the diverse skill set necessary to make it to the one-year mark and beyond.
The scientifically established need for holistic treatment has created a paradigm shift in the substance abuse treatment industry. Cutting-edge, client-centric facilities no longer rely upon the limited, outdated dinosaur of ongoing psychotherapy combined with pharmaceutical interventions as their sole professional offering. Some are exploring new horizons and setting encouraging precedents based upon the most recent evidence-based research. Although certain highly reputable facilities continue to rely exclusively upon traditional 12-step recovery, many are adopting a modern approach rooted in actually applying the 12-Steps holistically to every aspect of life. Guided by such an approach, the long-term benefits associated with treatment are dramatically improved and client satisfaction simultaneously increased.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, call an addiction treatment professional today and let them help guide you toward a proactive solution. And always remember, addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that requires aggressive, early intervention in order to achieve optimal long-term outcomes.
For more information about addiction and recovery, check out these related articles:
- What Are the Cost Benefits of Going to Rehab?
- 12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Treatment Center
- How to Tell Your Family You Need to Go to Rehab
- Addiction Recovery: An Overview of the Entire Process
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Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Pathways to Long-Term Recovery: A Preliminary Investigation. Vol 34, 2002.
American Medical Association (AMA) Journal of Ethics. Addiction, 12-Step Programs, and Evidentiary Standards for Ethically and Clinically Sound Treatment Recommendations: What Should Clinicians Do? June, 2016.
Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research. Factors associated with adolescents receiving drug rehab treatment: Findings from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. April, 2003.