Learn / Recover Your Sense of Self With Individual Therapy

Recover Your Sense of Self With Individual Therapy

Grace Ogren
 January 31st, 2023|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

Individual therapy puts you at the center of treatment. And in a rehab with 1:1 therapy, you’ll connect with your own deepest goals and values. Those ideals become guideposts, leading you toward the next chapter of your life. This process can empower you to make recovery your own.

What Is Individual Therapy?

Individual therapy, or 1:1 therapy, includes you and your therapist—no one else. These private conversations are a crucial part of most rehab programs. Your therapist might function almost like an advisor, supporting you as you navigate the rest of the program. Usually, they’ll also play a major role in designing your plan of care.

During rehab, you might meet with your therapist several times a week. You may also see them in other settings. For example, your 1:1 therapist might lead a weekly group session as well. If you’re just going to therapy, and not attending a larger program, it looks a little different. In that case, it’s most common to see your therapist once a week, for about an hour at a time.

Individual Therapy for Addiction Treatment

You can find individual therapy in most residential rehabs. Experts agree that it’s “the most useful form of treatment for substance use disorders.”1 It can help with almost every aspect of recovery, including complex mental health symptoms. Your therapist can also help you work toward specific goals, like abstinence.

Individual Therapy for Mental Health

1:1 therapy isn’t just for addiction. It can also treat most mental health conditions. At first, your therapist will help you identify goals for treatment. Depending on your needs, these might be very specific or more general. You can go to therapy because you’re feeling a little stressed, or because you want to decrease how many panic attacks you have per day. No matter why you start treatment, your counselor will likely teach you new coping skills, help you process your past, and empower you to move forward.

Types of 1:1 Counseling

There are many different types of individual therapy. Depending on your personal history, one or more of these methods may work well for you. And during rehab, you may even try a few different approaches.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

In ACT (pronounced like the word “act”) you’ll learn that fighting against a feeling can actually make it stronger. With that in mind, ACT teaches you to accept strong feelings2 as they come. Mindfulness and self-compassion help patients tolerate triggers instead of acting on them.

ACT also helps you identify your values. In one of your first sessions, your therapist will likely help you take an inventory of your own highest ideals. You can return to that inventory throughout treatment, and after rehab. While your values may change over time, it’s almost always helpful to know what they are. That way, you can build a life that honors them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT can be a vital part of addiction treatment.3 This 1:1 therapy teaches you to modify your thought and behavioral patterns. You’ll also learn practical coping skills, which can help you process even the most difficult feelings.

Addiction often starts as a coping mechanism. And when you’re triggered, you might run the risk of relapse. CBT skills offer an alternative. Instead of taking drugs, you might say a mantra you learned in therapy, go for a run, or text a friend. Over time, these new responses start to feel natural.

In a session, your therapist will prompt you to confront your thoughts head-on. Then, you’ll learn to distinguish between thoughts, feelings, and facts. For example, you might feel like you’re going to relapse after you leave rehab. But that’s just a feeling. And in reality, you have the power to make a different choice.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy offers you a fresh perspective4 on your personal history. Your therapist will encourage you to think of it as a story, with a narrative arc and ongoing themes. Then, they’ll establish you as the author of your own life.

This treatment helps clients understand the nuances of their own mental health. For example, imagine getting over a breakup. Painful though it is to be newly single, you can learn a lot in that process. Narrative therapy helps you deconstruct old patterns and start rebuilding yourself.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

In EMDR, you’ll focus on gentle stimuli as you work through past trauma. For example, you might look at a light as it moves back and forth. Or you might rub your arms while you describe a memory. These cues help you process the strong feelings associated with what you’ve been through. And over time, those feelings will subside. As a result, EMDR helps you grow less sensitive to triggers.

Addiction itself is traumatic. And sometimes, fears of a relapse can feel debilitating. EMDR is commonly used for trauma,3 but it can be just as effective for the memories and fears linked to addiction.

Benefits of Individual Therapy

Meeting with a clinician in private can make it easier for you to feel safe. But it’s not just about how you feel. Individual therapy also has some unique practical advantages.


In a 1:1 therapy, you’ll talk to your therapist alone. And for the most part, your conversations are private. There are some exceptions to this, of course. In residential rehab, they may share information with other clinicians on your treatment team. And if you make certain threats, or describe ongoing abuse, they might be obligated to report it. Your therapist can tell you exactly what information they would have to report.

If you’re over the age of 18, your therapist won’t share private information5 with your family, your friends, or other patients without your consent. So you can trust that your conversations will stay private. This helps many clients feel safe enough to explore vulnerable topics during treatment.

A Close Therapeutic Relationship

This type of therapy invites you to build a strong relationship with your clinician. And data shows that the therapeutic relationship directly affects the success of addiction treatment.6

It’s natural to feel safer around people you trust. That’s true in almost any situation. Walking through the woods at night is a little easier when you’re with a friend. And exploring the depths of your psyche can be less daunting when you trust your therapist.

Your bond can also get stronger over time. In every session, you and your therapist will get to know each other a little better. That makes it easier to share more personal information, so you can tackle even deeper issues. And the resulting connection you feel with your individual therapist can make rehab even more effective.7

Forging Your Own Path Toward Recovery

Above all, 1:1 therapy teaches you about yourself. Working through past issues can help you build resilience. And in turn, you’ll gain self-confidence in your own ability to heal. This commitment to recovery can inspire you to keep growing, no matter what happens after treatment.

Explore rehabs with individual therapy to see their locations, reviews, insurance options, and more.

Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod

  1. Karsberg, S. H., Pedersen, M. U., Hesse, M., Thylstrup, B., & Pedersen, M. M. (2021). Group versus individual treatment for substance use disorders: A study protocol for the COMDAT trial. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 413. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10271-4 []
  2. Osaji, J., Ojimba, C., & Ahmed, S. (2020). The use of acceptance and commitment therapy in substance use disorders: A review of literature. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 12(10), 629–633. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr4311 []
  3. Markus, W., & Hornsveld, H. K. (2017). Emdr interventions in addiction. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 11(1), 3–29. https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3196.11.1.3 [] []
  4. APA Dictionary of Psychology. https://dictionary.apa.org/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2023. []
  5. Hipaa privacy rule and sharing information related to mental health. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/hipaa-privacy-rule-and-sharing-info-related-to-mental-health.pdf []
  6. Cook, S. C., Schwartz, A. C., & Kaslow, N. J. (2017). Evidence-based psychotherapy: Advantages and challenges. Neurotherapeutics, 14(3), 537–545. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-017-0549-4 []
  7. Lamb, S., Greenlick, M. R., & McCarty, D. (1998). The treatment of addiction: What can research offer practice? National Academies Press (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230395/ []

Return to Resource Library

Our Promise

How Is Recovery.com Different?

We believe everyone deserves access to accurate, unbiased information about mental health and addiction. That’s why we have a comprehensive set of treatment providers and don't charge for inclusion. Any center that meets our criteria can list for free. We do not and have never accepted fees for referring someone to a particular center. Providers who advertise with us must be verified by our Research Team and we clearly mark their status as advertisers.

Our goal is to help you choose the best path for your recovery. That begins with information you can trust.