What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy involves working with a trained therapist to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Through guided conversations, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and develop effective coping strategies for any issues you may be experiencing. 


Psychotherapy provides a supportive space for you to reflect and make positive changes in your life. Your therapist helps you navigate your inner experiences and challenges, which improves your personal growth and emotional well-being.

What kinds of issues can psychotherapy address?

Psychotherapy can be a transformative experience, offering you support and guidance through a range of mental health challenges. Here’s a look at six specific issues where therapy can make a significant difference, why it’s beneficial and the best types of therapy for each situation.


Psychotherapy allows you to delve into the root causes of your depression, helping you recognise and alter negative thought patterns while developing healthier coping strategies. It provides a safe space to express your feelings and receive support.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for depression, focusing on changing negative thoughts and behaviours to enhance your mood and daily functioning.

Anxiety disorders

Therapy helps you identify and manage anxiety triggers, teaches you relaxation techniques and develops coping strategies. It also addresses any underlying issues contributing to your anxiety.


Exposure Therapy, a form of CBT, is great for anxiety disorders. It involves gradually facing and overcoming your fears in a controlled environment.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Psychotherapy provides a safe space for you to process traumatic events, reduce symptoms and improve emotional regulation. It helps you regain a sense of control and safety.


Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is highly effective for PTSD. It helps you process and integrate traumatic memories, reducing their emotional impact.


Eating disorders

Psychotherapy helps you understand and change your thoughts and behaviours related to eating. It supports developing a healthier relationship with food and body image.


Dialectical behaviour Therapy (DBT) is effective for eating disorders, focusing on emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Therapy helps you understand the nature of your obsessions and compulsions, reduces the distress they cause and develops healthier ways to manage symptoms.


Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a type of CBT, is highly effective for OCD. It involves gradually exposing you to your fears while preventing the compulsive behaviours that typically follow.

Is psychotherapy effective in addiction treatment?

Addiction psychotherapy is a highly effective method for treating Substance Use Disorders (SUD). By addressing the social, environmental and psychological factors that contribute to increased substance use, psychosocial interventions tackle aspects that medication alone often can’t reach. 


These interventions come from various theoretical backgrounds and aim to reduce substance use while improving occupational, interpersonal, physical and psychological functioning. 


Treatments can be delivered individually, in group settings or even through self-administered formats, meaning there are plenty of options for each person’s unique situation. 


For most SUDs, combining psychosocial interventions with pharmacological management is recommended, though they can also work well on their own.

What are the different types of psychotherapies used in addiction treatment?

Psychotherapy plays a crucial role in addiction treatment, offering a range of approaches that can be incredibly effective in different situations. Below, we explore five of the most common forms of psychotherapy used to support individuals on their journey to recovery.

Motivational interviewing
Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a counselling approach that helps individuals find the motivation to make positive changes. It’s all about having a collaborative conversation where the therapist supports the person in exploring their own reasons for wanting to change. This method is effective because it empowers individuals, making them feel understood and more willing to engage in recovery. By focusing on their intrinsic motivations, MI helps people overcome ambivalence and take steps toward sobriety.


How effective is MI in addiction recovery?

MI has been found to reduce substance use, especially in the short term. A Cochrane review highlighted a significant impact right after the intervention compared to no treatment. However, the effects lessened after 6 to 12 months, and there was no significant difference after one year. This suggests that MI is most effective immediately after the intervention and that ongoing MI might be beneficial even after substance use disorder remission.

12 step groups
12 step groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are peer-led support groups where members share their experiences and support each other in their recovery journeys. These groups are effective because they provide a sense of community and belonging, reducing feelings of isolation. The shared experiences and support from peers who understand what it’s like to struggle with addiction can be incredibly motivating and encouraging for individuals seeking to stay sober.


How effective are 12-step groups in addiction recovery?

A study which analysed data from six clinical trials found that individuals who had been attending 12-step programmes for 30 days reported decreased substance use

Similarly, those attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) reported an increase in abstinent days, reduced drinking intensity over the long term, improved psychosocial functioning and decreased healthcare costs, all of which contributed to long-term abstinence.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a structured, goal-oriented type of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. In the context of addiction, CBT helps individuals recognise the triggers and situations that lead to substance use and develop healthier coping strategies. It’s effective because it equips people with practical skills to manage cravings, handle stress and prevent relapse, fostering long-term recovery.


How effective is CBT in addiction recovery?

The effects of CBT on substance use are lasting, with benefits seen at both early (1 to 6 months) and late (over eight months) follow-ups. This durability might be due to CBT’s focus on relapse prevention and improving psychosocial functioning, resulting in long-term benefits even after therapy ends. A systematic review suggests that enhanced coping skills developed during CBT may be responsible for the sustained reduction in substance use.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that emphasises balancing acceptance and change. Originally developed for treating borderline personality disorder, it has been adapted for addiction treatment. DBT helps individuals develop skills in mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. It’s considered effective because it addresses the emotional dysregulation often associated with addiction, helping individuals build a more stable and balanced life.


How effective is DBT in addiction recovery?

When Dialectical behaviour Therapy (DBT) is successful, individuals learn to set, pursue and maintain goals that are separate from their past out-of-control behaviours, including substance abuse. This helps them handle life’s everyday challenges more effectively. DBT focuses on building a life worth living, which is a broader therapeutic goal than simply reducing problem behaviours, managing symptoms or providing palliative care.

Family therapy
Family therapy involves working with the family members of the person struggling with addiction. The idea is to improve communication and support within the family, address any dysfunctional dynamics and educate family members about addiction and recovery. This type of therapy is effective because it recognises that addiction affects not just the individual but their entire support system. By involving the family, it helps create a more supportive and understanding environment, which can be crucial for the individual’s recovery.


How effective is family therapy in addiction recovery?

Research shows that families play a crucial role in enhancing treatment and recovery success for youth with substance use disorders (SUD). Both empirical and developmental studies highlight the significant positive impact family involvement can have on the recovery process.

What are the next steps?

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug issues, now is the time to seek help. Rehab centres provide various psychotherapies tailored to your needs, ensuring you receive the best care and a personalised treatment plan. Don’t wait; the path to recovery starts with reaching out and taking that first step to a sober and addiction-free life.

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