Chapter 17. Individual Therapy for Substance Abuse Disorders

George E. Woody, M.D.; Paul Crits-Christoph, Ph.D.
DOI: 10.1176/appi.books.9781585622986.254070



The term individual therapy is simply what the name implies—a psychosocial treatment in which a therapist meets one on one with a patient for periods that usually range from 30 to 60 minutes. The frequency of appointments can vary from several times per week to once per month or less, depending on the clinical situation, although once per week is most common. Individual therapy is widely used in general psychiatry and, to a lesser extent, in substance abuse treatment where group therapy is more common, mainly due to its lower cost. In many cases, group and individual therapy are the only treatments offered to persons with nonopioid substance use disorders (Onken and Blaine 1990), and studies have shown that participation in these therapies is helpful (Crits-Christoph et al. 1999; Marijuana Treatment Project Research Group 2004). Previous studies with methadone-maintained patients (Woody et al. 1983, 1995), and more recent studies of pharmacotherapies for alcohol dependence (Garbutt et al. 2005; Verheul et al. 2005) and cocaine dependence (Shoptaw et al. 2003), have shown that individual therapy/pharmacotherapy combinations can be helpful as well.

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