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Therapy for Addiction

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted issue influenced by biological, psychological, environmental and genetic factors. Substance addictions include alcohol and drug abuse disorders, while non – substance abuse addictions, also called behavioral addictions, include food addiction, binge-eating disorder, internet addiction, sex addiction, compulsive stealing, compulsive buying and gambling disorder. Addictions are treatable with various therapeutic approaches and support systems available to assist individuals on their journey to recovery.

Therapy plays a crucial role in addressing addiction by helping individuals understand, manage, and overcome their addictive behaviors. Studies report that psychological therapy for addiction reduce severity and symptoms especially when delivered face-to-face and for extended periods.

There are several types of therapy that have proven effective in treating addiction:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with addiction. It focuses on teaching coping strategies, stress management, and problem-solving skills to prevent relapse.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI): MI is a client-centered approach that helps individuals explore and resolve their ambivalence about quitting addictive behaviors. Therapists work to increase an individual’s motivation to change by fostering self-awareness and highlighting the discrepancies between their goals and their current actions.
  • Contingency Management: This therapy uses positive reinforcement to encourage individuals to remain abstinent. Rewards are provided for meeting specific goals related to sobriety and positive behaviors, promoting the development of healthier habits.
  • 12-Step Facilitation Therapy: This therapy is often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and similar self-help groups. It involves working through the 12 steps, acknowledging powerlessness over addiction, making amends, and providing ongoing support from a community of peers.
  • Family Therapy: Addiction can have a significant impact on families. Family therapy involves the participation of family members to address dysfunctional communication patterns, resolve conflicts, and create a supportive environment for recovery.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT combines cognitive behavioral techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. It’s particularly effective for individuals with substance use disorders and co-occurring emotional regulation issues.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment where individuals can share their experiences, learn from others, and receive feedback. It also helps individuals develop interpersonal skills and a sense of belonging.
  • Holistic Therapies: Various holistic therapies, such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and equine therapy, can complement traditional approaches by addressing emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of recovery.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Many individuals with addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment integrates addiction therapy with mental health treatment to address both issues simultaneously.
  • Trauma-Informed Therapy: Many people with addiction have experienced trauma. Trauma-informed therapy focuses on addressing the underlying trauma that may contribute to addictive behaviors.
  • Pharmacologic therapy, also known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), is an important component of addiction treatment. It involves the use of medications to help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and maintain abstinence from addictive substances. MAT can significantly improve the chances of successful recovery by helping to alleviate the physical and psychological challenges of withdrawal and cravings.
  • Psychological drugs, also known as psychotropic medications or psychiatric medications, are sometimes used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for addiction. These medications target the brain’s chemistry and functioning to help manage the psychological aspects of addiction, such as cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and underlying mental health conditions.
  • When an individual with addiction also has a co-occurring mental health issue, known as a dual diagnosis or comorbidity, such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, depressions, anxiety and/or PTSD, psychiatric medications can be an important part of their treatment plan. These medications can help manage the symptoms of the mental health issue and improve the individual’s overall well-being, which in turn can support their recovery from addiction.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of any specific therapy can vary depending on the individual’s needs, preferences, and the nature of their addiction. A personalized approach that considers the individual’s circumstances is essential. Often, a combination of therapies and ongoing support systems yields the best results in addiction treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact Dr. Susan Pazak, PhD. Dr. Pazak is an addiction specialist who can work with you to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.


  • Goslar M, Leibetseder M, Muench HM, Hofmann SG, Laireiter AR. Treatments for internet addiction, sex addiction and compulsive buying: A meta-analysis. J Behav Addict. 2020 Apr 1;9(1):14-43. doi: 10.1556/2006.2020.00005. PMID: 32359229; PMCID: PMC8935188.
  • Arafat D, Thoma P. Impairments of Sociocognitive Functions in Individuals with Behavioral Addictions: A Review Article. J Gambl Stud. 2023 Jun 12:1–23. doi: 10.1007/s10899-023-10227-w. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37308789; PMCID: PMC10259812.
At a Glance

Dr. Susan Pazak, MD

  • Bachelors, Masters and PhD in Clinical Psychology
  • Voted best psychologist in Laguna Niguel 3 years
  • Studied marital & sexual satisfaction in couples
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