What Is Strengths-Based Therapy For Addiction?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 22, 2023

Strengths-based therapy focuses on honing your strengths and building resilience, rather than focusing on your weaknesses. This type of therapy can be helpful for treating mental health issues, relationship issues, and substance use disorders.

Strengths-Based Therapy For Addiction

Strengths-based therapy is a type of positive psychology. This therapeutic modality, often used alongside other addiction therapies, focuses on honing your strengths, rather than weaknesses.

This type of addiction therapy is most often used in the treatment of mental health disorders, like depression and schizophrenia, as well as relationship problems and self-esteem issues.

Within an addiction treatment program, strengths-based therapy may be offered alongside other treatments to help promote resourcefulness and self-confidence in the recovery process.

How Does A Strengths-Based Approach For Addiction Work?

Strengths-based therapy is a form of talk therapy. The goal is to process your history — for instance, past trauma, challenges — by honing your skills and identifying yourself as a survivor.

With a qualified counselor or psychologist, you will work on confronting the challenges you’ve faced in such a way that can build resilience, build self-confidence, and foster internal growth.

But this therapy doesn’t have a “problem focus.” You’ll also work on identifying past successes.

For example, what worked? What didn’t work? You and your treatment provider will focus on identifying and honing those skills you possess that made past positive achievements possible.

What Are The Principles Of Strengths-Based Therapy For Addiction?

Strengths-based therapy is a person-centered modality.

It evolved from experts known for their work in developing other therapeutic modalities, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and solution-focused therapy.

Core principles of a strengths perspective include:

  • an absolute belief that everyone has potential
  • it is a client’s own strengths, not their limitations, that define their “evolving story” and identity
  • a belief that the language a person uses creates their reality
  • the importance of focusing on challenges as opportunities to build capacity and resilience
  • change is inevitable in the recovery process
  • positive change occurs within the context of authentic relationships
  • a person has more confidence to journey into the future when they begin with identifying the personal strengths they already possess to enact positive change
  • the process of change must be guided by the client’s life and values, not that of the expert
  • capacity-building is a lifelong journey
  • effective change is a process that is inclusive and collaborative

What Are The Techniques Of Strengths-Based Therapy For Addiction?

An addiction treatment plan based on a strengths model might involve the use of several techniques customized according to each client’s personal and treatment needs.

Critical to this modality is treating the client as the storyteller, valuing their lived experience, and encouraging their active participation in their own healing journey.

Techniques a counselor or social worker might use in strengths-based therapy include:

  • beginning with a strengths-based assessment
  • identifying client strengths
  • reframing weaknesses/deficits
  • drawing attention to past successes
  • strengths journaling
  • identifying sources of social support (e.g. family members, friends)

Benefits Of Strengths-Based Therapy For Treating Substance Use Disorder

Strengths-based therapy focuses on personal empowerment, and building confidence in both yourself and your potential in your journey toward positive change.

Although this therapy is more commonly used in the treatment of mental illness, or relationship problems, it can also be helpful for substance abuse.

One study found that adolescents with substance use disorders who received this treatment, for instance, saw greater reductions in drug use and fewer/reduced symptoms of depression.

Strengths-based therapy can also help to:

  • foster identity development in adolescents and young adults
  • strengthen communication skills
  • improve mindfulness
  • address low self-esteem
  • foster a sense of hope and optimism for the future
  • promote the use of supportive coping skills
  • reframe, rather than ignore, vulnerabilities
  • boost interpersonal skills
  • improve personal well-being and quality of life

Strengths-based therapy may be offered by an individual healthcare provider, or as part of an inpatient drug rehab program.

This therapy is commonly offered in conjunction with case management, group therapy, family therapy, and other modalities, like CBT.

Find Strengths-Based Therapy For Substance Abuse And Addiction

If you’re seeking substance abuse treatment, one of our treatment specialists can connect you or a loved one to a treatment provider that offers this type of therapy for substance use.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on March 22, 2023
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