It is no secret that chronic substance abuse often leads to a wide variety of consequences. From severe medical complications to a loss of significant relationships, addiction and alcoholism leave no area of life untouched. As use related activities begin to consume all available time and energy, some people may begin to lose the ability to perform even the most basic acts of daily living. Additionally, depending on the stage of life substance dependence began the skills necessary to live as an adult may never have fully developed.

Life Skills Therapy, along with other interventions, is used in substance abuse treatment and can help improve functioning in certain areas of life that have been damaged by use. Life skills therapy is also beneficial in providing the education and support necessary for managing life after treatment such as interpersonal conflict, relapse prevention, and stress management. 

What is Life Skills Therapy?

Life skills therapy assists in the development of necessary skills used to manage the difficulties of everyday life. Areas of focus in life skills therapy can be behavioral, cognitive, interpersonal, or intrapersonal1.   The term life skills refers to a very broad set of skills that help individuals succeed in the environments in which they live such as effective communication, decision making skills, goal setting, or emotional control1. Life skills therapy is utilized in substance use treatment programs, along with counseling and other therapies, to help individuals lay the foundation for a balanced recovery and prevent relapse.  

Each person will enter treatment with different strengths. Some may have already mastered many life skills, while others may begin their recovery with very few skills in place. Therefore, treatment plans will vary from person to person. However, some common areas of focus are:

  • Coping Strategies – Individuals relying on maladaptive coping skills are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors2. While in treatment constructive coping skills will be introduced that will assist in stress management, adjustment to change, and relapse prevention.
  • Independent Living Skills – Due to chronic substance use, skills related to daily living may decline or disappear altogether. Learning skills such as time management, appropriate hygiene, financial responsibility, and food preparation are crucial in creating a balanced life in recovery.
  • Emotional Regulation – Dealing with difficult or uncomfortable emotions is difficult for anyone. If drugs or alcohol have been the primary method of emotional regulation, it is vital that new strategies are developed to avoid relapse.
  • Social Skills – Learning to socialize without the use of substances is an important part of treatment. Developing adequate social skills will help in the formation of a supportive recovery network, effective communication, and self-confidence. Additionally, social skills acquired in early recovery can assist in professional settings.
Living a Well-Rounded Life in Recovery

Entering treatment for a substance use disorder is the first step in developing life skills. Learning new skills, or building on skills already developed, will help to protect against relapse and foster growth and healing. Greenbriar Treatment Center offers inpatient and outpatient programs that allow participants to gain necessary life skills that encourage success in recovery. Reach out to Greenbriar Treatment Center today to learn about available treatment options. 


1. Hoge, K., Danish, S., Martin, J. (2012). Developing a conceptual framework for life skills interventions. The Counseling Psychologist, 1-28. DOI:10.1177/0011000012462073

2. Algorani E.B., Gupta V. (2021). Coping Mechanisms. StatPearls. Retrieved November 17, 2021 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559031(opens in a new tab)