What Role Does Psychotherapy Play in Heroin Addiction Recovery?

Psychotherapy is a critical part of drug rehab treatment for the abuse of heroin or any other drug. Unless the underlying psychogenic issues that led to the drug abuse are addressed and treated, relapse is likely. This article will explore and examine the following question: What role does psychotherapy play in heroin addiction recovery?

Many people who abuse drugs, particularly heroin and other opioids, are trying to self-treat the emotional pain from a past traumatic event. There are three major types of trauma:

  • Acute
  • Chronic
  • Complex

Acute trauma results from experiencing a single traumatic event. This could be any number of things, for example, a child who witnessed a horrible, violent crime in the home or elsewhere.

Chronic trauma refers to exposure to repeated stressful and damaging events over time. Bullying, including cyber-bullying, child abuse and domestic violence are good examples of this kind of trauma.

Complex trauma involves exposure to several traumatic events, for example, a child who grew up in an alcoholic home and repeatedly experienced or witnessed violent behavior and events.

There are many methods of treating and healing psychological damage from past traumatic events:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The idea of CBT is to identify and correct damaging thoughts that contribute to self-destructive behavior. The therapist will help the patient replace defeatist, bad thoughts with good and constructive ones. This may involve breathing therapy and also exposure therapy, where the therapist brings up the traumatic event and discusses parts of it with the patient over time. This repeated exposure to the past event is intended to desensitize the patient’s reaction to it.

Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This is a highly effective treatment method for trauma. A therapist who does EMDR must first be certified to practice it by a professional entity, such as the EMDR Institute. EMDR has eight steps that take the patient through the past traumatic event as the therapist guides the patient’s eye movements with a light or finger. Sometimes, sounds are used as well. The idea is to use the eye movements to detract from the traumatic event and reduce its present-day impact on the patient.


In addition to verbal psychotherapy, some therapists use certain medications during the therapy session. It’s called pharmacotherapy. It’s used in carefully controlled doses to reduce fear and anxiety, increase mindfulness and self-awareness and encourage new ways of thinking. Under this treatment, the patient may be able to face past trauma without creating even more fear.

The Special Risks of Heroin Abuse

If you are abusing heroin, you are taking serious risks with your health and life more specific to heroin when compared to other drugs of abuse. For example, heroin is typically injected. It can be smoked or snorted, but these methods fail to produce the powerful rush of intravenous injection. Injecting contaminated material, such as street heroin, into a vein introduces bacteria into the bloodstream. This bacteria can travel to the heart and infect one or more of its valves. These valves direct blood flow and are essential to normal heart function. Infection of the valves, especially the mitral valve, is potentially fatal and can cause permanent heart damage.

Today’s street heroin supply is commonly cut with a powerful synthetic opioid called fentanyl to increase profits for the dealer. Fentanyl is far stronger than heroin and can easily cause a fatal overdose. Especially when injected, fentanyl can result in a fatal overdose so quickly the person never has a chance to even call for help. If you are abusing heroin, you are taking a serious chance every time you use it. Even smoking and snorting still carry the risk of fentanyl overdose.

Do you Want Help?

If you’re concerned about heroin abuse and would like to stop, call us anytime at 844-639-8371. Our professional drug counselors will help you find the best treatment facility tailored to your needs.

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