Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that can be used to treat substance use disorders. CBT is widely used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other mental disorders. However, it has also been shown to be of value in treating alcoholism and drug addiction. This is especially true if it is part of a general recovery program.
CBT helps people better identify the negative and self-destructive thoughts and actions that can contribute to substance use. It is a short-term, focused therapeutic approach to help drug addicts become abstinent.
CBT uses the same learning processes that led to the development of alcohol and drug addiction in the first place to help people unlearn ill-adapted behaviors.
What is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that feelings and behaviors are caused by a person’s thoughts, not by external stimuli such as people, situations, and events. While you may not be able to change your circumstances, you can change the way you think about them. According to cognitive behavioral therapists, this will help you change the way you feel and behave.
In treating alcohol and drug addiction, CBT can help a person:..
- Improve self-control
- Recognize situations where they are most likely to drink or use drugs
- If possible, avoid triggering circumstances
- Develop coping skills to help you when faced with situations that trigger cravings
- Deal with other problems and behaviors that can lead to substance abuse
The main goals of CBT in substance use treatment are improving motivation, learning new coping skills, changing old habits, and managing painful feelings better.
Types of CBT
There are different approaches to CBT. This contains:
- Cognitive therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Rational behavior therapy
Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy (REBT)
- Rational life therapy
How it works
In the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction, CBT consists of two main components: functional analysis and competence training...
Functional analysis is a process in CBT that examines the causes and consequences of behavior. Working together, the therapist and the individual attempt to identify the thoughts, feelings, and circumstances that led to and followed drinking or consumption. This will help identify the risks that could lead to a relapse.
In functional analysis, a therapist can ask the individual questions to gain insight into how a person is thinking or feeling prior to the behavior. You can ask the client to remember the last time they used a substance and then ask:
- What did you do before using the substance?
- How did you feel?
- What just happened
- Has something positive happened because of the behavior?
- What were the negative consequences of your actions?
A functional analysis can also provide information about why they drink or use drugs in the first place. People can examine the situations, emotions, and thoughts that played a role in their drug or alcohol use. This will help identify situations where the person has coping difficulties...
By better understanding the difficulties that contribute to substance use, people can find ways to better manage difficult thoughts, emotions, or situations.
When people are struggling with difficult situations, life stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, or other problems, they sometimes turn to using substances or alcohol to deal with it. When someone gets to the point where they need professional treatment for their addiction, they are likely using alcohol or drugs as their primary means of coping with problems.
The goal of CBT is to get the person to unlearn ill-adapted behaviors and learn or relearn better coping skills. By learning such skills, they can then begin to apply them in situations that would typically trigger drug or alcohol use. The training of skills works through:
- Helping people unlearn old habits and develop healthier skills and habits
- Educating people about ways to change their attitudes about substance abuse
- Learn new ways to deal with the situations and circumstances that have led to alcohol or drug use in the past
Another aspect of competence training is to help people better tolerate feelings of distress. This allows people to manage their feelings of anxiety or depression in a positive way rather than turning to substance abuse for a quick fix.
Replacing old habits that contribute to substance use with more positive and lasting measures improves a person’s functioning and helps in long-term recovery.
Benefits of CBT for addiction
People with a substance or alcohol use disorder often struggle with negative feelings or thoughts that make recovery difficult. Because CBT focuses on identifying such thought patterns and replacing them with more adaptable ones, it can help improve a person’s outlook and support skills that support long-term recovery.
Some of the ways CBT can be beneficial for people with addiction include:
- Learning to identify self-destructive thoughts and actions
- Find ways to monitor such thought patterns
- Learn new, more adaptable ways of thinking
- Applying skills learned in new situations and settings
- Exploring new ways to deal with stress and difficulties
Research suggests that the skills acquired through CBT are permanent and can also be used in other areas of a person’s life. Approximately 60% of people treated with cognitive behavioral therapy for a substance problem can maintain recovery for a year...
How long will the treatment take?
Because cognitive behavioral therapy is a structured, goal-oriented educational process that focuses on immediate problems, the process is usually short term. Although other forms of therapy can be long-term and not limited in time, CBT is usually completed in 12 to 16 sessions with the therapist.
Research has shown that CBT can be an effective treatment for substance use disorders, both alone and in combination with other treatment strategies..CBT usually includes a number of different interventions – such as: B. operational learning strategies, competence building and motivational elements – which can be used either individually or in combination.
CBT is one of the most researched forms of treatment, so there is a wealth of evidence and support for its use in a wide variety of mental illnesses, including alcohol and substance use disorders. More than 53 randomized controlled trials of alcohol and drug abuse were studied to evaluate the results of CBT treatment...
Cognitive behavioral therapies are one of the most widely rated psychosocial approaches to treating substance use disorders.
In these studies, CBT has been shown to be the most effective when compared to any other treatment. When compared to other treatment approaches, studies have shown mixed results. Some show that CBT is more effective, while others show that it is as effective as other treatments, but not more.
As with other treatments for alcoholism and substance abuse, including pharmaceutical treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy works best when combined with other recovery efforts. This includes participating in self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
In short, cognitive behavioral therapy works well for some, but not all. This is the case with all approaches to treating alcoholism and drugs, as each person deals with and recovers from addiction in different ways.
A word from Verywell
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a highly effective choice for treating alcohol and substance use disorders. It can be used alone or in combination with other approaches that work together to aid a person’s long-term recovery. However, this is not the only option. So, speak to your doctor about what is available to help decide which approach is best for your needs.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.