Drug treatment programs often struggle with designing a program that not only helps addicts get clean, but that helps them stay clean. Too often, drug users relapse. One of the reasons for relapse is that drug use is viewed as normal behavior in many communities. The goal of many therapies is to combat that way of thinking. One way to do that is through moral reconation therapy (MRT), a key component of many substance abuse therapy programs.
Moral reconation therapy was originally designed to target the resistant population that uses drugs because they do not feel using drugs is wrong. And although the initial thought was that the prison population was best served by this type of therapy, treatment professionals soon realized that just about any addict would benefit from incorporating moral reconation into that individual’s treatment program.
The reason for the wider use of this therapy is that, regardless of social status or community affiliation, addicts often cannot see how their drug use affects anyone other than themselves. Helping addicts understand how a higher level of moral thinking can lead to the belief that addiction affects everyone can be a key point in individual recovery.
MRT is a 16-step program, but there are seven key aspects of treatment. The individual must:
MRT is often implemented in a group setting. In groups, it is difficult for users to hide from his or her own destructive beliefs. Challenging these types of beliefs is key to the success of the program. Therapy also includes readings, workbook exercises, and homework. The goal is to help the addict reach a higher level of moral reasoning.
MRT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), in that it makes the individual aware of the problem and implement behaviors designed to change bad habits. Many drug users believe that they have no real purpose in life, and studies have shown the MRT increases the individual’s positive perception of self-purpose. Accountability and the understanding that one’s drug use not only affects the user, but also those around him or her as well as the community as a whole. Increasing a sense of responsibility for others leads the addict to want to make significant changes.
MRT benefits the addict in ways other than drug addiction. With a higher sense of morality, belonging, and purpose, former addicts are driven to become a more important part of their communities, often helping others and leading more productive lives. Although not designed to address morality in a religious sense, the individual’s newly learned empathetic understanding of others leads the individual to make pro-social decisions and avoid destructive behaviors.
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