Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

Cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction has become a popular technique for therapists in recent years. Instead of having patients lying on a couch and talking about their problems, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) therapists allow patients to actively develop solutions to defeat addiction. Various research studies illustrate how CBT allows recovering addicts to improve their quality of life. 

CBT focuses on one’s network of thoughts and feelings so as to permit the patient to control undesired lifestyle behaviors. CBT for substance abuse aims to destroy addiction by changing the way the addict thinks. Instead of attempting to muzzle that deafening addiction, CBT rewires the brain so that those urges never arise. 

Everything we do stems from our memories, feelings, and thoughts. Some of those thoughts instigate bad behavior. What if a mind was able to ward those thoughts off? What if a mind could recognize the approaching bad thought and instantly replace it with a good one? CBT for substance abuse is one of the most effective treatments available. It works, and it could work for you.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a form of psychological treatment used to treat a number of crippling infirmities, such as: 

  • Substance abuse
  • Sleep disorders
  • Marital problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Severe mental illness

In essence, CBT allows patients to consider how their patterns of thinking influence their actions. While other psychological treatments analyze a patient’s past, CBT creates new, healthy patterns for tomorrow. Through a structured regiment, CBT attempts to reduce distress by allowing patients to form adaptive cognitions and behaviors.

The core philosophy of CBT is that a situation does not necessarily depress someone, but their interpretations of the situation does. A therapist using CBT to defeat addiction, for example, may focus more on why the patient ever became an addict to begin with and less on addiction therapies.

The History of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Aaron T. Beck developed cognitive behavioral therapy in the 1960s. Like some of the greatest discoveries of all time, the inception of CBT was actually a mistake. He was carrying out experiments to test psychoanalytic concepts of depression. When he examined his results, Dr. Beck discovered that the research confirmed something entirely different.

According to his research, depressed minds experience streams of negative thoughts. Though these “automatic thoughts” could be about any topic, they all fell into three categories: thoughts about themselves, the world and/or the future. 

Dr. Beck began evaluating these thoughts with his patients. As the patient began discussing these individual thoughts, they began thinking more clearly, which in turn, improved the patient’s lives. When the patient was able to change their perceptions about themselves, the world and/or the future, they sustained long-lasting change.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Firstly, no two CBT therapists practice the same. Each therapist is like a cook, brewing their individual recipes composed of decades of different research and formulas. CBT sessions can be one-on-one or in groups with other people who have similar conditions. 

The therapist will first want to be sure that CBT is the right treatment. The first few sessions will be spent determining this fact. In order to figure this out, the therapist will ask questions about the patient’s family, work, and social life. The therapist also will ask questions about the central condition. This includes what events are associated, what past treatment has been utilized, and what is the patient hoping to achieve. 

If the therapist feels CBT could work for the patient, the therapy begins the problem-solving phase. The treatment becomes interactive. The patient is given assignments, such as writing a diary or writing down the thoughts that go through their head. These thoughts are then analyzed. If the therapist feels these thoughts are negative or harmful, they will work with the patient to replace them with more positive thoughts.

  • Don’t dwell on negative thoughts. Instead, replace them with more helpful ones.
  • Recognize when a bad thought or urge is coming. Instead, the patient should do something that makes them feel good.

What Are the Steps of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction?

CBT for substance abuse follows four steps:

  1. Identify difficult situations or conditions in your life: Some of these issues might include grief, divorce, job loss, or a medical condition like an addiction. Your counselor will go through these with you and help you decide what goals and problems you want to address.
  2. Be aware of your feelings, beliefs, and thoughts about these situations: After you’ve pinpointed these difficult situations, you’ll be able to share your thoughts about them with your therapist. This process may include self-talk (what you tell yourself about an experience); your beliefs about yourself, events, and other people; and your perception of a situation’s meaning.
  3. Recognize negative or inaccurate ways of thinking: Your counselor might ask you to pay attention to how you respond to these troubling situations. How do you respond emotionally, physically, and mentally? This will help you identify patterns of behavior and thinking that could be contributing to your issues.
  4. Change your inaccurate or negative thinking patterns: This is when the real change happens. At this stage, you’ll ask yourself whether your view of the problem is based on facts or an inaccurate perception. Although this step is difficult, you can change your ways of thinking into positive patterns. This will become a habit over time and eventually won’t take a lot of effort.

How Does CBT for Substance Abuse Differ from Other Therapies?

CBT for Substance AbuseCBT is different from other psychological treatments in that it’s based entirely on research and clinical research. As a result, there is solid scientific evidence that CBT actually works and can allow addicts to live a substance-free life. 

According to the National Association for Mental Illness, CBT is different from other forms of psychotherapy because the therapist and the patient are a team, working together to conquer the patient’s mental disorder. 

Teams work together to accomplish a goal. Whether it be winning a ball game, constructing a building, or obliterating an addiction, a team is problem-focused, mission-directive, and goal-oriented. Under a CBT regimen, the patient and the therapist work together to develop a plan that creates a solution. 

CBT focuses on the future and creating a new and healthy living pattern. Other substance abuse addiction therapies focus on events from the past. Here is a sample of various addiction behavioral therapies.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Therapists utilizing CBT attempt to have their patients recognize and then abandon their addictions. The skills learned in CBT therapy become ingrained and benefit the patient long after the therapy has ended. In addition, CBT can be used to treat other mental disorders as well.

2. Contingency Management 

Contingency management is a type of behavioral therapy that reinforces or rewards individuals when positive behavioral change has been exhibited. One such example could be financial gains to reward negative drug tests.

3. Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a behavioral therapy based on the theory that humans have innate goodness. The therapist then allows the patient to create an ideal version of themselves, which would lack addiction. The patient is “motivated” to create this version of themselves by listening to the therapist list reasons as to why a change is needed, condemn negative consequences if no change is taken, and apply pressure on the patient to change.

4. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

During a Rational Emotive Behavioral therapy session, a therapist will illustrate to the patient exactly how harmful addictions can be. The therapist then will replace an addict’s unhealthy thoughts with healthier ones.

5. 12-Step Facilitation

12 Step facilitation therapy surrounds recovering addicts with people who understand an addict’s struggles, commemorate the success and assist an addict to stay focused. Most U.S. cities have a 12 Step facilitation therapy program.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction Right For You?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for addictionCognitive behavioral treatment is effective, but it is not always the right treatment for a patient. CBT only works on individuals who have the right mindset.

The therapist will not use CBT if :

  • The patient is not willing to put forth the effort.
  • The patient is unable to have open conversations.
  • The patient is unable to have an open mind.
  • The patient has a problem with self-discipline.

As noted earlier, CBT is all about teamwork. If the patient is not willing to be a team player, the desired psychological outcomes will never be achieved.

Find Out More About CBT for Substance Abuse

CBT for substance abuse does not work for all patients. The therapist must first determine its efficacy on the individual patient. According to clinical data, however, CBT for substance abuse is one of the most effective options. Instead of getting hooked on another prescription, CBT changes how an addict thinks about addiction. Once these principles have been taught, the patient will use them for the rest of their life. 

Intrepid Detox Residential has been rescuing recovering addicts for decades. The treatment facility is accredited by the Joint Commission. Contact one of our friendly operators and find out how we can help you.