Different Evidence-Based Treatment Models and Methods

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Many approaches are used to treat substance use disorders, so figuring out which one is best to use can be challenging. Some people choose alternative methods, while others will opt for evidence-based treatment methods and models. But what exactly does “evidence-based” mean, and how can you tell if an addiction treatment facility offers these methods?

“Evidence-based” refers to treatment approaches that have been thoroughly researched and tested and peer-reviewed by scientists. These scientific experiments help support the use and effectiveness of these methods across individuals, who each have unique experiences with substance abuse. No two people are alike, so treatment must be tailored to the person’s individual needs and preferences.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, evidence-based approaches aim to help each individual address various areas of their disorder.

The federal organization says, “Each approach is designed to address certain aspects of drug addiction and its consequences for the individual, family, and society.”

It also says, “Some of the approaches are intended to supplement or enhance existing treatment programs, and others are fairly comprehensive in and of themselves.”

Positive Psychology says evidence-based practice serves two purposes: a) to enhance the quality of treatment, and b) increase accountability. Therapies that incorporate scientific proof can help keep patients safe and guide them toward treatment plans that use methods that are effective in the long run.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse categorizes evidence-based therapies into two categories: pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies. Let’s look at each category below.


Addiction treatment programs can incorporate various pharmacological options to help people who are battling the complex disease of addiction. The options include nicotine patches and opioid drugs used in medication-assisted treatments. Medications can be administered in some treatment programs to wean patients off addictive drugs during the detox phase.Man discussing addiction with his doctor

While it is ideal that treatment helps someone stop using completely, the reality is some people might not be able to do so, so medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, may be used to help them live daily.

During this process, less potent drugs are used to replace stronger ones so that someone can complete the tapering process safely. MAT is also used for people who have continual relapses or perhaps relapsed after receiving traditional treatment services. These individuals find MAT helpful in supporting their desire to stop using. MAT patients receive therapy and counseling, along with their medications. This enhances the approach by covering all aspects of addiction.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies supported by scientific research are widely used in addiction treatment. These evidence-based approaches are designed to help people change their behavior as they respond to triggers that have brought on the desire to use addictive substances. These triggers include stress or drug cravings, but they can also include how clients respond to addiction treatment as well. Therapies involving behavioral responses can also help people address mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and substance abuse.

Many treatment plans employ one or more behavioral therapy options to ensure clients’ mental and emotional needs are addressed. The most common of these therapies are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is widely used in addiction treatment and other areas. This form of psychological treatment invites one to look within and closely examine how thoughts and coping mechanisms lead to a desired or undesired behavior. In the cognitive-behavioral model, healthy coping mechanisms can boost a person’s mindset and allow them to make positive choices that discourage them from using again. This is one reason CBT is found to help avoid relapse.

Motivational Enhancement

Motivational therapies are ideal for people who want to get clear on why they’re seeking full-time sobriety. Motivational interviewing and motivational enhancement therapy can both help people figure out their next steps as they start their recovery. These therapies often involve short interventions that can be administered in two to four sessions, which keep them low on cost and allow for more flexibility. People who want to turn over a new leaf may find motivational therapy is what they need to stop abusing substances.

Contingency Management

Contingency management interventions recognize milestones in treatment with rewards or prizes that encourage participants to repeat behaviors that move them closer to their sobriety goals. These goals may include completing a recovery program and making every effort to abstain from addictive substances. The incentives used in contingency management programs, which include vouchers with cash value and actual cash prizes, have been found to help people remain committed to treatment.

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