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Treating Substance-Related Disorders: Biological, Behavioral and Psychodynamic Approaches

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  • 0:07 Substance Abuse Disorders
  • 1:23 Sociocultural Treatment
  • 3:17 Psychodynamic Treatment
  • 4:07 Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment
  • 5:33 Biological Treatment
  • 6:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Millions of people suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. How do people get over addiction? In this lesson, we'll look at four different approaches to substance use treatment.

Substance Abuse Disorders

Ricky has a problem. His friends know it, his parents know it, and even his boss is beginning to suspect that Ricky is addicted to alcohol and drugs. He has a hard time getting through the day without drinking and taking stimulant drugs, like Adderall. It's starting to affect his work and his personal relationships.

In layman's terms, Ricky is an addict. In psychological terms, he has a substance use disorder, which is when a person abuses or becomes dependent upon a drug or alcohol.

Substance use disorders can be devastating to the patient and the people who love him. Substance abuse and dependence can lead to reckless behavior, loss of a job, alienation of loved ones, jail time, financial ruin, and even death.

Knowing all of this, Ricky's friends and parents want to help him get over his substance use disorder before it's too late. But, how do psychologists treat people like Ricky?

There are several ways to approach the treatment of substance use disorders. Let's look closer at the sociocultural, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and biological treatments of substance use disorders.

Sociocultural Treatment

Remember Ricky? He started drinking and doing drugs when he was a teenager. At the time, his parents were going through a divorce, and he was stressed out. Add to that the fact that his friends were pressuring him to be cool and try it, and Ricky started down a dangerous road.

The sociocultural approach to substance use disorders says that family, society, and culture all play an important part in why people become addicts. In Ricky's case, the family stress and peer pressure worked to start Ricky on alcohol and drugs.

But, if society is partly to blame for Ricky's addiction, the sociocultural view says that it can also be part of the solution. There are two important types of therapy that can help people deal with addiction, according to sociocultural theorists: family therapy and group therapy.

Family therapy is just what it sounds like: a family unit works together with a psychologist to address any issues within the family that are causing problems for the individual members.

In Ricky's case, he and his parents might see a psychologist together in order to talk more about the issues that might trigger Ricky's use. Maybe Ricky is able to talk to his parents about how he feels when his parents argue with each other or how stressed their high expectations of him make him feel. The psychologist can give Ricky and his parents some strategies for dealing with Ricky's drug and alcohol abuse together.

One of the more popular ways of dealing with addiction is through group therapy, where a group of addicts come together and are led by a psychologist or counselor to talk together about their problems.

In group therapy, Ricky can talk to other addicts and hear how they deal with issues. He can find support in the group and see that he's not alone. For many people, group therapy is the central part of their treatment for addiction.

Psychodynamic Treatment

Whereas the sociocultural view of addiction sees the problem as outside of the person, the psychodynamic approach to substance use disorders looks inside the addict.

Psychodynamic therapies seek to deal with the emotional and psychological issues that are at the root of a person's addiction. For example, maybe Ricky drinks and takes drugs because he's depressed. A psychodynamic therapist would work with Ricky to find the cause of his depression and figure out how to deal with it.

Remember that Ricky started down the road to addiction when his parents divorced. The psychodynamic approach seeks to understand how the divorce affected Ricky: does he have unresolved issues around that period in his life? A psychodynamic therapist would help Ricky work through the underlying issues in the hopes that will lead to recovery.

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