Occupational Therapy And Substance Use Disorder


Overview of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) & Facts on Prevalence

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental health condition characterized by recurrent and compulsive drug or alcohol use that leads to significant impairment in functioning. It is estimated that between 11-17 million people are living with SUD in the United States, and the number of individuals who misuse opioids alone has increased drastically over the last decade. SUD not only affects an individual’s physical and mental health, but also has a significant economic impact on society as a whole.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for SUD Treatment

Occupational therapy can play an important role in helping individuals with SUDs achieve their recovery goals. Occupational therapists work with individuals to identify activities and habits that can help support recovery. By doing this, occupational therapists are able to provide individuals with the skills they need to lead meaningful and productive lives in spite of their SUD.

Common Occupational Therapy Techniques for SUD Treatment

Occupational therapy interventions used for SUD treatment include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy helps individuals identify patterns of thinking and behavior that can lead to addiction. CBT helps individuals identify triggers for their SUD and create positive strategies for managing them in the future.


This technique encourages individuals to focus on the present moment and be aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Mindfulness interventions help individuals stay focused on the positive aspects of their recovery and reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Recovery from a substance use disorder is often an emotional roller coaster. Learning how to manage and express emotions in healthy ways is essential for long-term sobriety. Mindfulness techniques can help individuals to recognize, process, and accept their feelings without judgment or avoidance. This can improve overall psychological well-being, reduce stress levels, and help build a meaningful foundation for recovery.


Another important component of occupational therapy for SUD is skills-building. OTs help individuals strengthen their life skills, such as problem-solving, communication, self-care, and time management. With improved skills, individuals are better equipped to deal with stressors that could lead to relapse.

Supportive Environment

The caring and supportive environment created by OTs can be invaluable for SUD recovery. By creating a safe and nurturing space, individuals are more likely to open up about their feelings and experiences, which can lead to greater understanding of the underlying causes of their addiction. OTs also provide empathy and encouragement, allowing individuals to feel accepted and empowered.

Having a supportive community of family, friends, and peers is essential for successful recovery from substance use disorders. This support can provide encouragement and motivation, offer insight into triggers that could lead to relapse and help individuals maintain sobriety in difficult times. In addition, participating in 12-Step Programs or mutual aid groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Friends in Recovery can give individuals the opportunity to connect with people who have experienced similar challenges. This kind of peer support is invaluable in helping to build resilience and self-efficacy.

Rehabilitation Activities

OTs provide a variety of activities that can help with SUD recovery, such as art therapy, recreational therapy, and physical exercise. These activities can help build self-esteem, reduce stress levels, boost motivation, and improve social skills. Additionally, OTs may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help individuals recognize and modify unhealthy behaviors.

OTs can also teach practical skills, such as budgeting, meal planning, grocery shopping, environmental adaptation (or how to handle different environments), and parenting. These activities are designed to help individuals develop life skills that will facilitate successful re-entry into their communities.

OTs may also employ sensory integration techniques to help individuals process and respond to sensory input. This type of therapy uses a variety of activities, such as massage, brushing, deep pressure, and weighted items that are designed to give individuals a calming effect or better ability to manage their emotions.

Additionally, OTs use physical exercises and mobility training to help individuals with physical disabilities or limitations. The exercises and training may include the use of wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and other assistive devices. OTs also work to improve balance, coordination and strength in order to improve an individual’s functional ability.

How to Find a Qualified Occupational Therapist for SUD Treatment

Finding a qualified occupational therapist who specializes in SUD treatment is important, because they have the necessary knowledge and experience to provide appropriate care. One way to find a qualified OT is through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The AOTA website provides information on credentialing and licensure requirements in each state, as well as lists of accredited practitioners in the area.

It is also helpful to speak with a local mental health or addiction treatment specialist for further information and recommendations about qualified OTs in the area (Ohio Occupational Therapy). Additionally, many SUD treatment centers provide occupational therapy services as part of their comprehensive care program.

Ultimately, it’s important to do research before selecting an OT to find one who is experienced in working with individuals dealing with substance use disorder. It’s also important to create a trusting connection and make sure that the therapist is knowledgeable about SUD treatment methods and the recovery process. Occupational therapy can be an invaluable tool for those dealing with substance use disorder and seeking a more holistic approach to recovery. With the right combination of therapies, individuals can find success in overcoming addiction and living a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.

Was this post helpful?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here