Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is one of the most popular substance abuse treatment methods in use because it can empower clients to do this: confront and dismantle the core beliefs that drive addiction.
CBT, which is a form of talk therapy, equips clients with the tools to cope with addictions and disorders in a healthy manner. CBT can ultimately help them feel better about themselves and their life, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In essence, CBT argues that while you may not be able to change your circumstances, you can change how you think about them.
This is why CBT is employed to treat clients who grapple with anxiety, depression, phobias, and other mental health issues. It is also why it has proven to be effective when it is used to treat drug and alcohol addiction.
In reputable professional treatment settings, CBT is an integral part of the program. Read on to learn more about this evidence-based treatment method and how it specifically tackles substance abuse.
Psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck invented cognitive behavioral therapy in the 1960s.
While conducting therapy sessions, Beck would notice that his clients were having an internal dialogue buzzing in their heads. According to PsychCentral, the following is an example of what a client could be thinking during a therapy session:
“He (the therapist) hasn’t said much today. I wonder if he’s annoyed with me?” A thought like this could provoke a client to think he is unworthy of attention or care — a notion that could substantiate a negative core belief.
But that client could respond to that initial thought with an assessment that is more realistic:
“He’s probably tired, or perhaps I haven’t been talking about the most important things.”
That second thought, states PsychCentral, might change how that client was feeling, which allows the person to adopt a thought that does not substantiate a negative core belief.
In essence, when people changed underlying beliefs about themselves, their environments, and others, they experienced lasting change in their behavior and outlook toward life.
This led Beck to coin this approach “cognitive therapy.”
These days, CBT treats people who are dealing with a wide range of issues, especially those dealing with substance abuse and addiction. CBT is described as “a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving.”
When it comes to substance abuse and addiction, CBT helps clients break the cycle of allowing their bad thoughts to lead to substance abuse. This makes the therapy particularly useful in situations where the threat of relapse is imminent.
In helping people with addictions, CBT allows them to explore “the positive and negative consequences of continued drug use, self-monitoring to recognize cravings early and identify situations that might put one at risk for use, and developing strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding those high-risk situations,” states the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
CBT can be administered in individual or group settings. According to research published by the Psychiatric Clinics of North America, the most common treatment methods for substance abuse addictions include:
This approach addresses the motivational barriers people have that might prevent them from quitting drugs or alcohol.
With this method, clients are taught to respond differently to cues that would otherwise trigger them to abuse substances.
This approach relies on the partner, family, and/or members of the community to help their addicted loved one become sober.
CBT is thought to be particularly effective in helping clients to avoid relapse. The Beck Institute lists several benefits that show how CBT helps people with addictions:
CBT is especially effective when it is administered with other kinds of treatment like medication, pharmacotherapy, and hypnotherapy.
For example, CBT has been employed as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This is when a professional treatment program uses CBT and medication to treat someone with an addiction. An example of this is when CBT is employed, along with naltrexone, to address an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
CBT has also been employed in contingency management, a practice in substance abuse treatment where stimulus control and positive reinforcement are used to change behavior.
CBT is a central part of reputable professional addiction treatment. In fact, it is administered in combination with other methods to address the underlying causes of addiction.
Whether a client has an issue with opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, or cocaine, a professional recovery program treats the manifold damages of addiction, especially what it does to the body, mind, and soul.
This is why treatment begins with ridding the body of the addictive substance through medical detoxification. This process is conducted under medical supervision. It is when the drugs or alcohol are removed from your body, and the withdrawal symptoms that occur are treated and alleviated.
The restorative treatment of the mind and soul occurs through residential treatment, which happens after detox. In this setting, you live at the rehab facility where treatment is administered. At this stage, you receive counseling and therapy, both traditional and alternative, that includes CBT. This helps you get to the psychological roots of your addiction.
For ongoing treatment after the residential phase, you can enroll in an outpatient program, which allows you to live independently.
After treatment, you can connect to an alumni program, which allows access to a supportive recovery community after treatment. This support is crucial in staving off the threat of relapse.
Buddy T | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician. (n.d.). How Cognitive Behavior Therapy Can Help Addicts Recover. Retrieved from from https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-behavior-therapy-for-addiction-67893
Cognitive behavioral therapy. (2019, March 16). Retrieved from from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
Martin, B. (2018, October 08). In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved from from https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/
McHugh, R. K., Hearon, B. A., & Otto, M. W. (2010, September). Cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders. Retrieved from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2897895/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine). Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral
Understanding CBT In Addiction Recovery. (2017, December 18). Retrieved from from https://www.thefix.com/understanding-cbt-addiction-recovery