Which is Best for Me: Individual, Couples or Family Therapy?

Treatment for those who have been abusing drugs or alcohol can be intensive and varied. Depending upon your unique situation, there is a therapy program that is right for your needs. Partial hospitalization programs and outpatient therapy each may be more appropriate for some individuals, but in either case, therapeutic counseling for addiction is necessary to help you achieve success.

What Are Your Therapeutic Options?

Therapy sessions during rehab for substance abuse or addiction come in a variety of forms. There is one-on-one counseling, group therapy with others in recovery, therapy as a couple or counseling that involves an entire family unit.

How can you decide which type of therapy is right for your particular needs while undergoing rehab? The first step in making a decision is knowing what your choices entail.

How Individual Therapy Works

individual therapeutic counseling for addiction

During individual therapy for addiction, you work with a health professional privately in one-on-one sessions. These sessions can lead to a better understanding of yourself and provide you with insights into addiction and how it has shaped your life. Individual therapy is also a way to gain the inner strength needed to recover successfully.

The most common form of therapy used is cognitive behavioral therapy, during which you identify negative ways of thinking and behaving and learn how to replace them with healthier decisions and though processes.

These sessions can be held in the therapist’s office or anywhere that you can speak together privately for 50 minutes or an hour at a time. You will likely attend an individual therapy session at least once a week, though twice weekly can be more helpful.

The benefits and goals of this type of therapy include:

  • Building your self-esteem
  • Increasing your desire to recover
  • Uncovering the initial motivation to engage in substance abuse
  • Identifying your triggers and goals

Couples Therapy

If a couple or one relationship partner needs to undergo addiction treatment, there is therapeutic addiction counseling for couples that are available to help restore harmony and function to those relationships. Addiction can have a huge negative impact on a romantic partnership, and the repercussions can be more intense if both are fighting addiction. During couples therapy, the therapist may give homework assignments to reinforce gains made in the previous sessions. The couple and therapist will discuss any relationship problems that exist and whether any substance abuse-related incidents have occurred.

The goals of couples therapy:

  • Learn how to communicate more effectively
  • Gain insights into the issues that fuel addiction
  • Enable each person to better understand the disease of addiction
  • Learn how to support and appreciate one another

What Family Therapy Can Achieve

family therapeutic counseling for addiction

Family behavior therapy has been found to be more effective for people in recovery than individual counseling alone. 1 With this form of therapy, families engage with one another using behavioral strategies that are taught during counseling sessions. These new strategies give family members the skills needed to improve the living environment at home. Family therapy is just as effective for adults recovering from substance abuse 2 as it is for adolescents.

Family therapy for addiction includes educating family members about addiction, and sessions include discussions about family roles, ways to communicate better, how to rebuild trust and respect and learning what helps and what hurts.

The benefits of family therapy include:

  • Helping everyone in the family understand addiction and how it relates to behavior
  • Being aware of family dynamics and patterns
  • Improving communication
  • Restoring trust
  • Sharing feelings without fear


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-5
  2. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA13-4784/SMA13-4784.pdf