Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently used in drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs to help individuals with substance use disorders better understand and manage their condition. If you’re considering addiction treatment, learning about the benefits of CBT may help you feel more comfortable as you begin the recovery process.
What Is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychosocial intervention that incorporates principles from behavioral and cognitive psychology. It helps patients better understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions.
CBT is structured, goal-oriented, and focused on solving immediate concerns. Therefore, it’s much less intensive than other forms of psychotherapy. Instead of spending several months or even years in therapy, CBT is typically completed in 12 to 16 sessions or as part of a 30-, 45-, or 90-day rehab program.
In addition to its use in addiction recovery, CBT is also widely used as a treatment for anxiety, depression, phobias, and other mental health disorders. It has been shown to be effective in improving mental health in children as young as 7, if the therapist is trained to explain concepts in an age-appropriate way.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a modified form of CBT that incorporates concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindfulness into CBT techniques for emotional regulation. It is based on the belief that some people have the tendency to react in more extreme and intense ways to emotionally charged situations and will have more difficulty returning to an appropriate baseline state.
What Happens in CBT for Addiction Recovery?
Cognitive behavioral therapy has two main components: functional analysis and skills training. Functional analysis means that the person is working to discover the circumstances that led to the addiction. Skills training means the person is working to develop healthier ways to cope with the issues that lead to the addiction.
In CBT, you will:
- Look at the positive and negative consequences of continued substance abuse
- Identify situations that might put you at risk for substance abuse
- Create a plan to avoid high risk situations
- Use self-monitoring strategies to identify cravings as they occur
- Develop strategies for coping with cravings
- Learn to recognize how negative thoughts and all-or-nothing thinking may be hindering your recovery efforts
For example, consider the case of a man who starts to drink after work as a way to relieve the stress and frustration caused by having a job he doesn’t enjoy. His tolerance for alcohol grows and he needs increasing amounts to achieve the same stress-relieving effects. He starts going to work hungover and his performance suffers. Eventually, he is let go. His wife is angry about his job loss and he’s worried about providing for the family without any income. He continues to drink to relieve these new sources of stress, beginning a vicious cycle of addiction.
CBT helps this man realize that his problems started because he was unhappy at work. Instead of looking for a new job, attempting to earn a promotion, or asking for more challenging duties, he turned to alcohol to feel better. This solution worked temporarily, but eventually led to job loss. Then, he experienced stress due to financial problems and conflict in his marriage. CBT might help this man move forward by looking at what type of work he wants to do and how he can become a more qualified candidate for a job that would be enjoyable. He can also use CBT to uncover healthier ways to deal with future stress.
When Is CBT Used?
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be incorporated into both group and individual therapy for substance use disorders. Using CBT in group therapy helps participants understand that their struggles are not uncommon as they learn from the experiences of their peers. Using CBT in individual therapy allows participants to dig deeper into issues that are of particular concern.
Therapists often assign homework outside of CBT sessions to help participants better understand how to apply the principles of therapy to their daily lives and develop the growth mindset necessary for lasting recovery.
Can CBT Cure Addiction?
It’s understandable to wish for a guaranteed fix for your problems, but addiction is a chronic illness characterized by periods of relapse. Cognitive behavioral therapy can’t cure addiction in the same way you’d cure a case of strep throat, but it has been proven effective in helping to build the foundation for lasting sobriety. The benefits of CBT are further enhanced by a comprehensive addiction treatment plan that includes approaches such as 12-Step support, holistic care, and medication assisted treatment.
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center provides treatment for men and women struggling with substance use disorders based on the belief that each of us has an inherent potential for change and growth. CBT is offered as part of a full continuum of care designed to help clients break free from dependence on drugs and alcohol and the destructive behaviors associated with addiction.