Psychiatry Vs. Psychotherapy Vs. Psychoanalysis

Feeling Lost in Recovery

When I got to recovery I was overwhelmed. I was facing a 20-year cocaine addiction. I was living on the streets. I was scared. My case worker had made a recovery program happen.

I didn’t know all the terminology or what to expect; I just knew I needed help, or I was close to dying.

I was completely overwhelmed when I entered my program. I soon found out, that even though my situation wasn’t the norm in the program, I wasn’t the only one who felt overwhelmed.

In a group therapy session, one after another of all the people told their stories, and how they felt entirely overwhelmed by the experience. I was happy to know I was not alone. 

One of the biggest changes for me in my experience of recovery, was that I was now being asked to have agency. Before all my agency had been taken away by my addiction. Now, it was being given back. It was difficult making choices. I had people supporting me.

There were a team of people who I met with individually to create the best treatment for me. Recovery wasn’t just about getting better; it was about figuring out how I had gotten here in the first place. 

When you are in a situation where you think you need help and a recovery program, feeling overwhelmed is natural. You are not alone. Those are the words I wish I could have heard right away. I suppose I did, but it didn’t resonate.

You will have support detoxing, sifting through your emotions, and digging deeper to understand why your addiction formed in the first place. In learned in recovery the different forms of therapy that would go on to help support me after I left, and throughout my life.

I’m going to break down psychiatry vs. psychotherapy vs. psychoanalysis. 

Feeling Lost in Recovery

What Treatments are Offered in Recovery?

The first thing that happens in recovery is typically you need to detox. After that process, you may need medications.

This is where psychiatry comes in. According to the NIH, “About half of individuals who suffer from substance abuse disorder also experience a co-occurring mental disorder and vice-versa”.

This means that the team in recovery supporting you will be offering therapy to help discover any underlying disorders. It is helpful to know all the terminology to help you navigate the process.

And this is for anyone who is thinking they may need inpatient or outpatient support to help them with addiction or other issues in their lives. 

One of the most important parts of treatment in a recovery program is addressing what caused your addiction. Maybe it’s anxiety, depression, a mixture of both, and trauma. Not only will you want to find treatment from your recovery program, but you also want to find long lasting treatment.

As you will hear often in recovery, it doesn’t stop at your inpatient (if that is what you decide to do) program. Ongoing treatment is crucial for addicts and substance abuse issues.

I felt extremely frustrated when I began my recovery program. There were therapies, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists. Some of the people and treatments resonated with me and pushed me forward, some did not. If I could give any advice to people who are in recovery, I would say pay attention to what works and what does not. 

It’s like any relationship. Maybe you meet a person, and you think at first, they will be your friend, but you find out later down the line that that person doesn’t serve your best interests. Same in a romantic relationship. Or a job. It is the exact same with therapy and different modules of treatment. 

Some will be effective with one kind of person, some will not. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep on trying. When therapy is effective, whether it be medications or a specific type of talk therapy, it can work wonders. The right fit is out there.

It helps to know the difference between treatments and the people that give those treatments. Below I give a breakdown of a few common types of therapy that you might expect to encounter in a recovery program and beyond. 

What is Psychiatry in Recovery?

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders. In substance abuse programs, and for treatment of addiction sometimes medications are prescribed for co-occurring diagnoses.

For example, I had an addiction to cocaine, and I was also diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist when I entered my recovery program. 

Eventually I was put on medications to help with the symptoms associated with my depression. This was all done by a psychiatrist.

I met with mine 3 times a week while I was in recovery doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and to see how the medications were working to ease my symptoms. According to the NIH, this treatment can be effective for those who are diagnosed with depression and a substance use disorder.

Sometimes taking medication can seem scary. Psychiatrists can help guide you through that process, monitoring and switching your meds if necessary. Not everyone will need this, but it could be a crucial part of your treatment. 

Psychotherapy Versus Psychoanalysis

There has been a lot of progress in addiction treatment and therapy in general. That means that there are now evidence-based therapy treatments found to be effective in treating substance use disorders. Two common treatments used in therapy are psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. The two types can sound intimidating, but they aren’t. 

Psychotherapy is defined as:  Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties.

Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing. Almost everyone who enters a recovery program will be offered some sort of talk therapy. It can be extremely effective. 

Psychoanalysis is a Form of Therapy

Psychoanalysis is a Form of Therapy

The definition is this: Psychoanalysis is defined as a set of psychological theories and therapeutic methods which have their origin in the work and theories of Sigmund Freud.

The primary assumption of psychoanalysis is the belief that all people possess unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories. The aim of psychoanalysis therapy is to release repressed emotions and experiences, i.e., make the unconscious conscious. It is only having a cathartic (i.e., healing) experience can the person be helped and “cured.”

It is helpful to understand and know these terms while in recovery. You may be offered a type of therapy that does not work for you. Psychoanalysis could be one of those.

If you know what this therapy is you could say you would prefer a different type, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Or any other kind besides Psychoanalysis. This could help you choose a program that works for you, rather than against you.

You could also feel that psychoanalysis could be beneficial to your recovery. Then you could search for recovery programs that offer that. 

There is not one therapy that is better than another. It is up to the question the individual is facing to find an effective treatment module. Psychotherapy and Psychiatrists can help you pinpoint the question and guide you to treatments that will help support you as you go forward.

Psychoanalysis might be a method of treatment that works for some, and it may not work for others. There are many forms of evidence-based therapies these days and a good program will have the information needed to help you choose the one that will best suite you. 

Final Note on Psychiatry Vs. Psychotherapy Vs. Psychoanalysis

I have been clean for 5 years. I go to therapy every week and I see my psychiatrist once a month. I have realized that the work to stay sober has not been easy, but it has brought me enumerable joy in ways I could not have imagined. Wherever you are on your journey, don’t give up.

Don’t get frustrated by the terminology or by realizing one form of treatment isn’t effective. You will find your way. If I did, so can you.