Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for addiction is one of the most effective means of reclaiming control of your life. Addiction can be devastating to individuals and families alike. If left unchecked, addiction has the capacity to cause long-term negative health effects and psychological problems. That’s why it’s important to pursue addiction treatment quickly.
What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy1 is a therapeutic technique and methodology that emphasizes changing the way you think and using those changes to affect how you act. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, patients learn how to control their thoughts better, identify negative thoughts, and apply both lessons to improve everyday decision-making.
CBT’s core philosophy states that all psychological issues are based on problems with how individuals think and learned behaviors. Through CBT, individuals can gain the power they need to restructure their thought patterns and recognize the red flags or signs of harmful actions before they occur.
CBT can be broken down into different approaches or techniques, including:
- Cognitive therapy
- Rational living therapy
- Rational emotive behavior therapy or REBT
- Rational behavior therapy
- Dialectic behavior therapy
Regardless, the primary goal of CBT for addiction treatment is to improve motivation, change thinking patterns, and teach individuals the mental skills they need to thrive.
How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work?
Cognitive behavior therapy works2 through two main components.
First, a CBT therapist will perform a functional analysis. With a patient, the therapist looks at the causes and consequences of behaviors like drinking or using drugs. Specifically, the therapist and patient work together to identify the feelings or thoughts that lead to inappropriate behaviors or harmful actions.
In doing so, the patient learns the risks that may lead to a relapse in the future and grasps the thought patterns that led them to become addicted in the first place. To accomplish functional analysis, a therapist may ask questions such as how a patient feels, what happened right before using or drinking, and what the individual was doing before using a harmful substance.
Overall, functional analysis is intended to give therapists insight into why patients drink or use drugs. Then they can break down and explain those insights to patients, resulting in better overall self-understanding.
The second part of CBT is skills training. CBT therapists will work with patients to teach them the skills they need to succeed in life and manage negative thought patterns. Depending on the goals of the program or therapist, skills training can include:
- Teaching addicted individuals positive habits, as well as helping them unlearn old, negative habits
- Educating patients about how to change thinking patterns and how to change the way they think about substance abuse and interpersonal stress or trauma
- Teaching patients ways to cope with stressful situations and circumstances, which may lead to a relapse or which led to drug abuse or heavy drinking in the past
In a broad sense, CBT skills training is all about helping patients learn how to tolerate feelings of distress in manageable, positive ways rather than turning to substances that can be abused.
Benefits of CBT for Addiction
When leveraged properly, CBT for addiction can be quite effective. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy offers many benefits to patients who undergo this therapeutic process.
Identify the Thoughts and Actions that Lead to/Encourage Addiction
First and foremost, CBT can help patients identify the thoughts and actions that lead to or encourage addictive behaviors.
For example, a patient may discover through CBT that they are more likely to drink when they have a stressful conversation with one or more family members. After identifying this thought pattern, the individual can take steps to either avoid the stressful situation or deal with it more positively, such as by working out or expressing themselves honestly.
Learn to Monitor Negative Thought Patterns
Next, CBT assists individuals struggling with addiction by helping them learn to monitor their negative thought patterns. For many individuals who struggle with addiction, a relapse can occur almost without warning.
But CBT teaches thought pattern monitoring, enabling patients to discover the warning signs of a relapse or to identify the triggers in their behavioral patterns that leave them vulnerable to substance abuse. Again, this is all about getting ahead of relapse and preventing it from occurring in the first place.
Discover Positive Ways of Thinking
More generally, CBT helps individuals struggling with addiction by teaching them positive ways to think about their problems and themselves.
Addiction is always a symptom of a deeper problem, such as difficulty dealing with familial stress, challenges at work, and so on. Positive thinking can help alleviate many of the urges associated with substance abuse or drinking disorders. By teaching individuals struggling with addiction how to think positively, CBT gives them the tools they need to overcome any challenge in the future.
It’s in this way that CBT is particularly useful. Short-term recovery is good, but long-term, permanent recovery is even better.
Apply Skills to Challenging Situations
CBT teaches addicted individuals how to apply the skills they learn to different, challenging situations.
For example, an individual might have limited success avoiding a relapse with a substance for a short while. Still, they notice that they’re at a higher risk of relapsing if they leave their support group or if they undertake a new challenge, like starting a new job.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches individuals to apply positive thinking and thought pattern monitoring skills so they can catch themselves before they relapse, and so they can maintain their positive behavior in any circumstance or setting.
Incorporate New Ways to Handle Stress
Similarly, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches individuals to explore new ways to handle stress and difficulties. When offered with other holistic wellness therapies, CBT teaches individuals to handle stress by:
- Talking to a therapist or trusted friend
- Going for a walk or spending time in nature
- Exercising regularly to dispel stress and stress hormones
- Undertaking positive hobbies with close friends or acquaintances to divert energy into a productive outlet
- And more
All of these ways can result in positive, lifelong changes for individuals who previously struggled with addiction. Stress is the root of many addictive urges, so learning how to handle stress is vital for anyone who wants to overcome addiction in the long term, not just temporarily.
Is CBT for Addiction Right for You?
Ultimately, cognitive behavioral therapy can effectively treat addiction and help you acquire the mental thought patterns and habits you need to improve your life for good. However, CBT isn’t the only addiction treatment method you should consider.
At Silver Sands Recovery, we offer a variety of addiction treatment methods and strategies custom-tailored to each individual’s needs. Our mission is to build you up from rock bottom, helping you reclaim control of your life and confidence in your decision-making.
For example, we offer family-style treatment, twelve-step rehab programs, and holistic addiction treatment to reinvigorate and improve your life in more ways than one. Why wait? Contact Silver Sands Recovery today to learn more.
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.