What to Expect In Life Skills Therapy

Last Updated on August 17, 2021

The goal of rehab isn’t just to get sober—it’s also to learn how to maintain a life of sobriety after addiction. Rehab helps individuals focus on their recovery by removing all distractions and providing a supportive, sober treatment environment.

However, clients also need life skills therapy to learn how to successfully manage their lives and deal with the realities of recovery outside of rehab. Otherwise, someone who is unable to function well as a sober adult may end up relapsing after they leave the protective bubble that rehab offers.

Related post: Why Do I Need Alcohol Abuse Counseling?

What Is Life Skills Therapy?

When it comes to addiction recovery, life skills are skills that are required to provide a solid foundation for effective stress management and sobriety maintenance. They enable people in recovery to face the demands of daily sober life (including interpersonal relationships, social responsibilities, employment, etc.) without defaulting to self-destructive behaviors or harming others.1

Life skills is a very broad term that includes a set of socio-psychological and interpersonal skills that help a person do the following things (and more) in recovery:

  • Make healthy decisions
  • Communicate well with others
  • Manage oneself and one’s life responsibly

In rehab and aftercare programs like sober living, life skills therapy complements the counseling and behavioral therapy clients are already receiving in treatment. When combined with other evidence-based treatment methods and therapies, life skills therapy can help clients heal, develop self-esteem and confidence, and live a more balanced life in recovery.

In short, life skills therapy improves a person’s likelihood of both establishing and maintaining physical, psychological, and social comfort and well-being in life after addiction.

What Are the Benefits of Life Skills Therapy?

Research studies have confirmed that there are many benefits of life skills therapy for individuals who are receiving treatment to overcome substance use disorders. Some of the most prominent advantages include:2,3

  • Reduced substance abuse
  • Improved self-confidence and ego
  • Reduced aggressive behaviors
  • Decrease in suicidal behaviors
  • AIDs prevention
  • A shift in attitude toward drug abuse
  • Improved social skills
  • Improved self-efficacy and decision-making

To summarize, life skills therapy will help a person sustain lasting sobriety by empowering them with the tools they need to function well in society and relationships.

Life Skills Therapy and Relapse Prevention

So how does life skills development improve relapse prevention efforts? Essentially, life skills therapy gives individuals the tools they need to succeed in life and recovery. Everyday life is full of challenges, but people can learn to overcome them without drugs or alcohol by developing the following types of skills:

  • Individual skills – First and foremost, clients in rehab have to learn how to care for themselves after months or years of substance abuse. In addition to practicing proper hygiene, they must also learn how to manage their finances, grocery shop and cook for themselves, do laundry, and complete other daily tasks that will help them succeed in life. Many people completing an addiction treatment program may have had a handle on these skills prior to their addiction but may need to re-learn them or adopt new, healthier habits in recovery. Additionally, many people in recovery struggle with negative emotions like boredom, anxiety, and depression. Life skills therapy can help them learn how to cope with these difficult emotions without relying on drugs or alcohol to cope.
  • Social skills – Addiction destroys relationships and makes it difficult to develop and maintain healthy social connections. People who have struggled with addiction may also need to learn how to regulate their emotions without using drugs or alcohol. Skills like resolving conflicts, managing stress, or even just interacting with people daily will take time to develop after living a lifestyle of addiction.
  • Professional skills – Some people receiving addiction treatment may have lost their job due to their substance abuse. As a result, they may have also lost some of the necessary traits and skills needed to find, secure, and maintain employment for lasting financial stability. In rehab or aftercare, treatment professionals can provide life skills therapy by helping clients create a resume or improve an existing one. They may also guide clients as they search for employment, prepare for interviews, and maintain ongoing employment.

How Does Life Skills Therapy Improve Mental Health?

Life skills therapy also has a positive impact on mental health, according to recent research. One 2010 study found that life skills training among college students decreased mental health disorder symptoms, especially anxiety, depression, and stress.4 

Considering these psychological symptoms substantially increase a person’s risk for relapse, using life skills therapy is a great way to help reduce them. Not only will this type of training improve a person’s overall mental health and well-being, but it will also increase the likelihood that they’ll be successful in their recovery after they transition out of a rehab center and back into society.

How Effective Is Life Skills Therapy When It’s Combined With Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment Methods?

Addiction treatment experts have long known the benefits of evidence-based addiction treatment methods like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These experts also recognize the benefits of life skills therapy when it’s combined with other evidence-based practices.5 

In fact, CBT already encompasses some of the tools and strategies clients gain from life skills training. For example, with cognitive behavioral therapy, clients are encouraged to develop coping skills, and in turn, change their way of thinking, processing emotions, and behaving. 

CBT emphasizes what’s currently happening in a client’s life, instead of what occurred previously. Much like life skills therapy, the focus is mainly on moving forward and establishing effective strategies to cope with life’s challenges in recovery.

When you look at CBT and life skills therapy through this lens, you can see that the two overlap and have similar goals for clients who are recovering from substance use disorders.

Related post: What Is Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment?

Get Well-Rounded Addiction Treatment at Nova Recovery Center

If you’re searching for a rehab program, it’s important to find one that provides comprehensive, well-rounded, and individualized care. With any program, there should be an intense focus on life skills development coupled with other evidence-based methods to ensure each client has the best chance at achieving long-term success in recovery.

At Nova Recovery Center, we help individuals address the root causes of their addiction(s), develop healthier ways of living, and gain the skills and tools they need to achieve lifelong sobriety. We use a variety of evidence and research-based treatment methods to help our clients succeed as they face the challenges of living a fulfilling, sober life after addiction.

If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about our rehab programs at Nova, please call (888) 427-4932 or contact us online for more details.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4050678/ 
  2. http://eprints.fums.ac.ir/772/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12188596/ 
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042810017441 
  5. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral 

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