Functional analysis is used with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a popular treatment method for those with substance use disorders.  Functional analysis helps individuals learn tools to prevent relapse and replace negative behaviors with more positive ones.  Many addicts have difficulty learning positive coping skills and understanding triggers in recovery.  Once learned, they can experience a healthier lifestyle in recovery.

Functional analysis is a systematic examination of the consequences of addictive behavior.  It is used in many treatment programs and with many mental health professionals who incorporate the tools into individualized treatment plans.

During an individual therapy session, the therapist will work with the individual to identify feelings, thoughts, and behaviors related to the addiction.  These feelings and thoughts can be ones that are experienced before a craving, or ones experienced before, during, and after using.  The goal is to identify high-risk behaviors that can lead to relapse.  During this exchange, both the individual and the therapist benefit from the information, as both can see potential triggers and problem areas.  This kind of insight is valuable, as it contributes to overall collaboration and allows the treatment plan to be customized.

The therapist might ask the individual to recall a time when the individual last used alcohol or drugs.  This may involve the individual and the therapist exchanging ideas and asking and answering questions.  They will also review a typical relapse scenario and the therapist will assess the insight expressed by the individual.  The idea is to get the individual to be specific about what triggered or could trigger relapse.  The therapist hopes to get enough information to form an individual’s worldview related to alcohol and drug use.  Questions asked might relate to how they felt when they used, how did they feel overall that day, and the feelings associated with alcohol or drug use.  In addition, the therapist will inquire about the consequences of their behavior, both positive and negative, that arose from the drinking or drug use.

After conducting a functional analysis session, the therapist will institute skills training.  The focus of this skills training is to focus on unlearning negative behaviors related to relapse and replacing them with new, positive behaviors.  The behaviors that led to alcohol and drug use are replaced with new behaviors and thought patterns.  This does more than avert relapse.  They have the potential to improve interpersonal skills, encourage better emotional coping behaviors, and enhance the individual’s support system.

Functional analysis is usually included as part of a holistic approach to treatment for substance use disorders.  It can be helpful in providing the tools that an individual can use to avoid high-risk behaviors that can lead to relapse.

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