Quitting drugs or alcohol is more complex than simply allowing your body to rid itself of the influence of the substances in question. For many people, the emotional immaturity that treatment seeks to correct is the most important factor to target.
This is the reason detox alone isn’t successful for many people struggling with substance abuse. An extended period in a rehab program that properly applies the full continuum of care is successful for more people with addiction because it fosters the emotional growth and maturity needed to avoid slipping back into bad habits.
In this piece, we’ll explore how rehab — especially in long-term care — allows clients to focus on their own development and use this to make their sobriety sustainable for the rest of their lives.
What Is Emotional Immaturity?
Let’s consider two cases:
Subject A and Subject B both go through a divorce, a serious accident or some other source of emotional trauma.
Subject A understands that the best way to process their emotions is by getting help from a professional, so they schedule sessions with a therapist to help them work through their trauma.
Subject B doesn’t have the same understanding of the best resolution. They try to cope by turning to alcohol because it numbs the pain, and over the course of the next few months, they develop a dependence.
Subject A may have had more opportunities for emotional growth than Subject B, which gives them the maturity to avoid long-term damage from a short-term negative situation.
Why Is Emotional Growth Important?
First, it’s important to note that just because Subject A is better prepared to overcome a traumatic situation than Subject B, it doesn’t mean they’re inherently “better” or “more valuable.” It just means they were more emotionally mature in this case.
Calling addiction the product of an emotional immaturity disorder can seem like a counterintuitive way to describe it. It seems like it clashes with the fact that addiction can happen to anyone — but it doesn’t. Not everyone develops substance abuse issues due to emotional immaturity, just like not everyone who is emotionally immature becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The point here is that everyone needs to develop emotional maturity because it helps us process situations and make rational choices about our future.
3 Elements of Rehab That Improve Emotional Maturity
No rehab program advertises itself as a way to help clients resolve emotional immaturity through treatment. The primary objective of addiction rehab is to help a person struggling with substance abuse get clean and stay clean for the rest of their life. The building of emotional maturity is simply the means to an end in many cases.
Here are a few examples of standard parts of rehab that target cases of emotional immaturity:
Standard inpatient and outpatient rehab programs involve psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” in which a client sits down with a licensed professional and talks about their struggles. The gold standards in talk therapy methods are those that handle patterns of thinking — like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.
CBT helps clients by unpacking the way they react and make decisions based on different stimuli in their lives. It focuses on the thought processes that affect their actions and provides more productive ways to think through likely scenarios.
In a typical talk therapy setting, the goal is for a person to understand the underlying factors and possible outcomes when they make a decision. This is a sign of emotional growth.
Group and Family Meetings
Group counseling sessions are another staple of most rehab programs. These focus less on personal exploration and more on getting clients to listen to each other and see things from different perspectives. When it’s time to share, they talk about their life experiences in a way that allows them to benefit from alternate points of view.
The same is true when rehab programs get families involved, something that’s recommended whenever possible. When a person in treatment gets to hear from their loved ones with a clear head, they have an opportunity to understand how loved ones are affected by their substance use.
Ultimately, this helps develop empathy, another marker of emotional maturity. Group and family interactions during rehab help clients see the ways their behavior affects those close to them.
Here are some tips to get the most out of group therapy if you’re thinking about going into a rehab program.
Integration With AA or Other Outside Recovery Groups
In rehab, aftercare planning is important. Relapse rates for drug and alcohol addiction are high, and making sure a client has a stable place to live, work and continue to practice sobriety when they exit inpatient treatment is important.
Part of this includes helping add a layer of continuity to the entire process, which is why many treatment centers choose to either involve clients in outside groups or integrate 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous into treatment. This helps ensure the lessons and practices of rehab are directly applicable to other recovery groups across the country.
Groups like AA provide structure and stability while teaching members constructive ways to think about their problems. One of the main lessons AA and other 12-step programs teach participants is accountability, which is another marker of emotional maturity. Emotionally stunted men or women are less likely to take responsibility for their actions, so being taught to be accountable in their lives signals real growth.
The Importance of Making a Commitment to Rehab
At the end of the day, emotional maturity is not the primary goal of rehab — getting clients to stop using drugs and alcohol is. However, emotionally immature women and men are more likely to struggle staying clean than clients who have a greater understanding of the consequences of their decisions and the most constructive ways to deal with bad situations.
Emotional maturity can make the difference between getting out of rehab and starting to spend time with old friends who still use substances and making the difficult choice to start fresh. It can mean developing new, healthier coping mechanisms. It can also mean returning to the things that worked — like therapy and group meetings — when things get difficult, instead of trying to overcome them on their own.
Programs at FHE Health are designed to integrate emotional growth in every aspect of treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with your relationship to addictive substances, don’t wait — reach out and get the help you need.