Today, let’s talk about how to use this time to work on your recovery and learn to manage your anxiety and substance use disorder in real-life settings. During outpatient treatment for a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, the time spent in clinical sessions and group therapy is a fraction of your full schedule. Because these sessions are integrated with your school or work commitments, family time, and other obligations, what you learn during each session can be immediately applied to your daily life.
An outpatient setting for co-occurring/dual diagnosis treatment of anxiety and substance use allows a patient to test strategies for managing their lives in between sessions and seeing what works and what may be less effective. Applying what’s learned in clinical sessions and group therapy while in the midst of real-life activities allows an individual to return to outpatient treatment with practical information and discuss the results with their therapist. Another part of co-occurring disorder treatment in the outpatient setting involves learning how to reframe unhealthy interactions associated with substance use and replace them with positive, constructive recovery-based actions.
Whether anxiety predates substance use or coincided with it, managing anxiety is now a daily duty.
It’s helpful to be mindful of what’s going on with your body and your behavior when you’re feeling anxiety. Some people tend to want to isolate from others when feeling anxiety. Others may choose to engage in risky behaviors, including using illegal substances. Your specific reaction is important because it’s unique to you and becoming aware of it can help you anticipate what you’re more likely to do when it returns and you have no healthy strategies to manage it.
The purpose of outpatient treatment for anxiety is to prepare you specifically for the long gaps between sessions when anxiety is most likely to return.
Prioritizing this purpose in communication with your therapist and then practicing each strategy you’re given is a helpful way to determine what appears to work for you. Different strategies may be necessary for different forms of anxiety. Tracking your results and reporting back to your therapist is another way to reinforce what you learned and remember the strategy the next time you need it.
You won’t be able to eliminate all forms of anxiety, but you can create a list of avoidable situations that tend to lead to anxiety.
Learning how to manage unexpected anxiety and using your recovery tools when it emerges can be primary goals in outpatient treatment. That doesn’t mean throwing yourself into highly stressful situations just to practice your anxiety-reducing strategies. You have plenty of work to simply manage the episodes as they naturally come.
Use outpatient therapy to create a plan for how to engage socially without relying on substance use.
The other part of navigating anxiety is relearning how to live without the substance or substances that led to you needing treatment. For many people, this looks like creating new paths in life, new social settings, new social connections, and choices to find replacement behaviors that allow you to protect your sobriety. As the old thinking took time to create the world you used to live in, your new thinking will take some time and some practice to distinguish between what’s safe and what’s risky.
See outpatient treatment as a resource for safe connections and fresh ideas.
The people in treatment with you can become a resource to help you recreate a life of sobriety by sharing what’s worked and what’s not for them. You’re not in this alone. You have valuable allies around you at every group session who are willing to support and empower you to make better choices for yourself.
Be authentic when you struggle with staying sober in between sessions.
You’re not in a contest with other patients so being the “best” is not the objective. Your recovery is your sole focus, and it depends on you being truthful with yourself about your substance use and being authentic with your addiction specialists when you face a problem outside of sessions. This work-in-progress thinking allows you to continuously learn and grow from what you’re taught in sessions and what you experience on your own.