Evidence-Based Modalities Used in Clinical Substance Use Treatments

Medically Reviewed

The United States is struggling to contain an addiction epidemic that is ravaging our nation. Whether it is the affluent or more impoverished communities, nobody is exempt from this crisis. Despite the staggering numbers, researchers have developed strategies and ways to approach this pressing public health issue. Evidence-based modalities are becoming the standard for clinical substance use treatments, and they are yielding positive results.

Evidence-based treatment refers to modalities that have proven to be effective through scientific research implemented in a treatment setting. Although these modalities have shown they can work for a vast majority of individuals, it doesn’t mean they will be for everyone. When a clinician implements an evidence-based approach, they can assume it will help clients progress in their treatment. 

Other treatment options that are not based on scientific evidence could include alternative therapies. While these may be practical in some cases, they haven’t been studied adequately or shown their effectiveness after rigorous testing. A treatment plan must, at its foundation, contain an evidence-based approach for the best results. 

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies are treatment options that focus solely on your thoughts and how they influence your motivations and behaviors. Behavioral therapies typically deal with modifying your attitude, learning skills to cope with stressful situations, and how to motivate yourself. 

These therapies are used for a broad range of problems, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. It is proven successful in addiction treatment since behavioral therapies address substance use disorder and underlying mental health conditions. 


Addiction treatment offers various pharmacological options, ranging from opioids in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to nicotine patches. Drugs are routinely used to taper clients off addictive substances during the detox phase. 

In some cases, however, drugs replace other harmful substances to help a client through their treatment program. Medication-assisted treatment is typically used as a last resort for clients who have failed more traditional treatment options several times. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Among the most commonly implemented evidence-based modalities is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). No one reacts the same to stress, and CBT works to help you develop coping strategies unique to your situation. 

For example, if you’re conditioned to take Xanax anytime you feel stressed as your go-to coping mechanism, CBT exists to help modify those behaviors. It will help you cope with triggers and identify stressors to avoid those high-risk situations. It will help you develop skills to deal with these situations.

Contingency Management Interventions

Contingency management interventions involve rewarding your milestones within a treatment program with prizes. These incentives are designed to take the place of drugs, which your body, over time, associates with a reward. These incentives are designed to increase your motivation and provide an award for abstinence. 

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This form of treatment, known as motivational enhancement therapy, works to help individuals increase their motivation for treatment, leading to positive changes. Not everyone entering a program to treat addiction is ready to change. Sometimes it’s a court order, and sometimes it’s for a loved one, but MET is designed to strengthen the person’s resolve to engage in the program. 

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