Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Addiction

CBT helps people look at the negative thought patterns, negative emotions, and coping strategies that lead them to display problematic behaviors - such as using drugs or alcohol.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Addiction

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, otherwise known as CBT or cognitive behavior therapy, is a form of talk therapy. It can be used to treat disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. CBT is based on two branches of psychology: behaviorism, and cognition. This is where CBT gets its name.

CBT is a tool that is commonly used today to treat addiction. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, CBT was developed as a tool to help alcoholics stay sober. This therapy dives into a person’s behavior and teaches them how to change it. It also changes the individual’s relationship with that behavior.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT focuses on two aspects of human experience: behavior and cognition. Cognition, the first half of CBT, is all about how a person takes in the world around them. This includes thoughts, emotions, and perceptions about the world and one’s self. Cognition includes the way that people understand, think, and feel about both past and present experiences.

Behavior is pretty self-explanatory. This half of CBT is all about what a person does. Behavior includes a person’s actions. Behavioral therapy has been around for a long time, and is pretty simple. Behavioral therapy simply tries to change a person’s behavior by pairing incentives.

Negative incentives are given for behavior a person does not want to engage in (such as substance use). Meanwhile, positive reinforcement is given for behaviors a person wants to show more of (like going to the gym or spending time with family).

CBT developed when therapists began considering cognition and using it in behavioral therapy. CBT does not just look at a person’s behavior, thoughts and feelings as separate things. It focuses on a person’s thoughts and feelings about their behaviors.

In addition, CBT looks at the emotions and mental state of a person and works to understand how those aspects lead to certain behaviors.

In particular, CBT looks at the gap between what we do, and what we wish we were doing. Addiction behavior is a great example of a case where someone might know that their actions are not serving them, but they can’t stop what they’re doing. CBT aims to help patients with addiction issues control their substance use through understanding the thoughts, feelings, and triggers that lead them to use drugs or alcohol.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a perfect example of a case where a person’s actions go against what they want to be doing. If you are reading this article, you probably have some understanding of the negative effects that addiction can have on a person’s life and the lives of those around them.

But in most cases, the person abusing drugs and/or alcohol simply cannot control their behavior, even if they know it is harmful.

CBT addresses the underlying causes of addiction. Usually, CBT is used after an addict has detoxed, during the time period that they are learning how to stay clean and avoid relapse.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction works by looking at a patient’s triggers for using. According to CBT, people usually use drugs or alcohol to try and cover up or escape from painful emotions. These emotions might come from past events such as a trauma.

CBT works by looking at difficult emotions and the thought patterns that arise when people feel them. It helps recovering addicts to draw a picture of how their drug use actually happens.

Common Patterns of Drug Abuse

  • A traumatic event such as sexual abuse occurs in a person’s life.
  • They feel deeply confused and hurt by the experience.
  • The individual begins to think that the trauma was their fault. Often thinking that they could have done something to stop it.
  • The person feels even more pain from these inaccurate thoughts, and turns to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Everyone’s experience with addiction is different, and not every addict has had traumas that have led to their addiction. Still, CBT works by helping an addict to see and understand how their drug abuse is a result of their thoughts and feelings.

Then, by diving into these thoughts and feelings, it helps them to become less painful and allows patients to develop new ways of responding to them that do not involve drug use.

What is Involved in CBT Therapy?

CBT is a talk-based therapy, meaning that the majority of the work happens through conversation between patient and therapist. CBT sessions usually start by the patient filling the therapist in on what has been happening in their life and what kind of thoughts, feelings, and possible triggers have been coming up.

Next, the therapy session moves into a problem-solving approach where the therapist begins to help the patient learn new ways of relating to his/her experience. A CBT session will usually include the following processes:

  • Identifying issues and triggers: The therapist will help their client identify problem areas of their life such as difficult relationships, health problems, or stressful situations. These triggers are often seen as high-risk situations that could trigger substance abuse.
  • Looking at the response to issues: Next, the therapist shifts focus to how issues in a client’s life make them feel, and what thoughts and perceptions have come up for them about the issues. Sometimes, therapists ask their patients to keep a journal during the week so that they can track their responses to situations more accurately.
  • Finding areas to work on: Once the patient’s thoughts and emotions about a given situation are clearly laid out, the work shifts towards identifying thoughts that are inaccurate or overly negative.
  • Forming a new response: Once it is clear how a client is making a situation worse through their negative thoughts and feelings, the therapist helps them to view the situation differently. This approach can positively transform the way a patient reacts to different triggering situations in life. More importantly, something that was a trigger for substance use can instead become a positive event.

How Long Does it Take for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Work?

CBT usually lasts for 10 to 20 sessions, with the most common frequency being one session per week. The amount of time a person stays in therapy really depends on the specifics of their problems. For example, an addict with a co-occurring disorder might have more complex issues that take more time to work through than someone without.

Timeframe also depends on what stage of treatment an addict is in when they begin CBT. If they are fresh out of detox, they might start a CBT program that is only for the duration of their inpatient care. Usually, the client and therapist work to develop a plan in the first few sessions and go from there.

Getting Addiction Treatment

Regardless of the drug being abused, substance abuse is no joke. Addiction can lead to serious health problems including overdose.

Bedrock Recovery Center offers CBT as a great tool to be part of a larger treatment plan.

Seeking addiction treatment is always the right choice. Even if the problem seems ‘minor’, or ‘under control’. Addiction can spiral quickly and can ruin your life and the lives of those around you.

Bedrock Recovery Center has all the tools needed to help addicts get clean and stay clean. Do not hesitate to make the call today!

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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