With the symptoms and effects of addiction being so numerous and diverse, each addict will manifest different symptoms to varying degrees of severity depending on factors such as length of time spent in active addiction, whether an individual was especially susceptible to chemical dependency, the drug or substance of choice, and so on. However, there are still a number of effects that result from addiction and seem to affect the majority of addicts. This includes the physical deterioration of health, damage to or loss of important personal relationships, resorting to criminal behavior—forgery, burglary, stealing, etc.—in order to sustain a substance abuse habit, and the lack of emotional and/or spiritual fulfillment. What’s more, chemical dependency can arrest one’s psychological growth and maturation, or perhaps even cause regression. As a result, there are a number of addiction treatments and recovery therapies that are intended to address the way that addiction can stunt a person’s developmental and emotional growth.

Research consistently suggests that an addicts emotional development can be halted during the period when he/she begins using chemicals.  This can cause major deficiencies in life skills acquisition and lead to a general inability to move forward in life successfully.  Life skills therapy can aid clients in getting back on track with regards to school,  employment and within the recovery community.  It can help individuals to not only achieve but sustain long-standing sobriety; resisting relapse even when faced with what seem to be overwhelming life stressors.

What Exactly is Life Skills Therapy for Addiction?

Over the course of active addiction, individuals tend to lose their independence. This takes the form of being unable or unwilling to maintain stable, gainful employment, which results in being unable to support oneself financially, the inability to maintain residency or even find a place to live long-term. However, the loss of independence can be much more profound and include being able to maintain a state of hygiene or cleanliness, being unable to cook or feed oneself, being incapable of maintaining an organized and sanitary living environment, being unable to provide for one’s own medical and health needs, and so on. When there are dependents involved, such as children or other family members under an individual’s care, the severity of the situation is compounded as these individuals are not only suffering themselves, but also causing suffering or harm to others; this can lead to intervention from Child or Adult Protective Services and other government agencies that can remove dependents from an individual deemed unable to care for him or herself or others.

Life skills therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or counseling that’s intended to help individuals to progress to the level of independence and self-sufficiency to which they should be, but due to the intervention of a mental health condition or addiction have been unable to learn. Often intended for teens and young adults, life skills therapy can be modified to teach even adolescents or individuals of advanced age appropriate and adequate levels of self-care. In these types of therapy sessions, participants are instructed by a facilitator or leader in executing a number of skills essentially for being a productive, healthy, individent individual.

Life Skills Therapy and Substance Abuse Treatment

The things individuals learn as part of life skills therapy can be incredibly generalized and broad—how to be confident or how to respond to bullying—or more specific and involve developing certain skills—cooking a meal or dental hygiene. Especially in instances where addicts have not learned the necessary skills to be independent upon reintegration into the community, it’s important for those in recovery to learn basic and essential life skills, the absence of which could be a trigger for relapse. Some of the most common skills that are taught to those in recovery as part of life skills therapy include cooking and preparing meals, how to budget and spend money wisely, tips for saving money, strategies for maintaining physical health, how to maintain the different areas of the home, and other such necessities of independence. However, the skills afforded by life skills therapy can also include such things as learning to cope with stress and anxiety, coping with loss or losing, how to overcome shyness, how to respond to bullying, being able to take turns, building and maintaining friendships, how to participate in romantic relationships, how to make choices by weighing consequences and outcomes, finding time for relaxation and leisure, self-regulation and self-control, and so on.

Each individual participating in life skills therapy will be coming from a different, unique background, which means that they will each have different needs. The offerings of a life skills session tend to be based on an assessment of the participants so that the facilitator or instructor can teach the life skills that are most needed by the group’s participants. Additionally, since it’s a form of group counseling life skills therapy offers individuals a social component to the experience as well, which encourages them to socialize with one another and help one another to hone the skills they are learning. While the intent of life skills therapy is to teach individuals to be independent and self-sufficient, the ultimate goal is for individuals to become adept at self-care so that they will be better prepared to cope with adversity and stress while maintaining sobriety after treatment.

Benefits of Life Skills Therapy for Addiction

Similar to the effect that substance abuse has on one’s ability to sleep, substance abuse often has a major effect on an addict’s nutrition. Whether a drug causes an individual to overeat or malnourishment by eliminating any semblance of appetite, addicts tend to have very poor eating habits, which is learning proper nutrition and eating habits is an important part of life skills therapy. It’s essential for individuals to give their bodies much-needed nutrition from quality food. While proper nutrition has been shown to improve mental functioning, healthy eating habits can significantly reduce risk of numerous health conditions as well.

As human beings, we each have a number of needs that must be met. While the most obvious include maintaining a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep, many of us also have specific health needs that must be addressed. In life skills therapy, individuals are discouraged from ignoring health problems or other bodily needs as they would while in active addiction. Especially for those with co-occurring, or comorbid, conditions like diabetes or a mental health affliction, individuals must learn the importance of receiving regular care and, when necessary, taking medications to maintain one’s health.