How individual therapy works on a one-to-one basis, usually in a therapist’s office, but sometimes in a meeting room, classroom, or even in an outdoor environment. A typical therapy session lasts from 50 minutes to an hour. Frequency of therapy depends on the client’s needs, but most programs require that the client attend at least one individual session each week.
Individual therapy sessions are structured according to the patient’s needs. Patients who need inspiration and encouragement may be guided through a series of questions to help them discover their own personal motivation to get sober. A therapy session can touch on many topics, but most therapists will focus on the subjects that are currently preoccupying the client, such as:
- Their progress in rehab
- Personal obstacles to recovery
- Interactions with others both inside and outside the facility
- Cravings or withdrawal symptoms
- Experiences with new coping skills
- Their goals for the immediate future
A therapy session will often end with the client and therapist working together to set goals for the days ahead. These goals might include staying sober for a certain number of days, attending a specific number of meetings, or trying a new recovery activity. In some recovery programs, therapists use a therapeutic approach called contingency management to motivate their clients. In exchange for achieving a certain number of sober days or reaching another personal goal, clients may receive tokens or other tangible rewards.
In the contemporary view of substance abuse treatment, therapy is a collaborative process. The therapist does not condemn, judge, or criticize the patient, or tell him or her what to do. Instead, the therapist and client work together to move the client forward through the stages of recovery. The therapeutic philosophy of motivational interviewing is very different from older therapeutic approaches, which were much more aggressive and confrontational. Today, individual therapy sessions focus on helping the client build self-esteem and increase the desire to recover.