Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Substance Abuse

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Founded in the 1960s, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a type of mental health counseling that has become popular amongst those who are being treated for addiction and substance abuse issues. It teaches those who are in recovery to not only discover and establish what led to their addiction in the first place but also shows them how being more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and actions can help during the recovery process.

As you seek treatment for addiction, you may want to take a deeper look at CBT for substance abuse including taking a deeper look at what it is, how it benefits those who are in recovery, and what you can expect during cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

As we touched on in the intro, cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction is a psychotherapeutic treatment that helps those who are in therapy to identify and change destructive or disturbing thoughts and actions that have a negative influence on them. CBT focuses on those negative thoughts and actions and replaces them with more realistic and positive thoughts. 

While CBT has proven to be effective in helping to treat those who are suffering from substance abuse issues and addiction, it has also been proven to help with mental health issues as well, many of which can ultimately lead to said addiction and substance issues. Some of the mental health conditions that CBT for substance abuse has been successful in treating include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anger issues
  • Personality disorders
  • Multiple phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia


What Are Some of the Different Techniques That Are Used During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The ideas instilled in CBT are also used in other forms of behavioral therapies. They all address those negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and several of these therapies are used in conjunction with one another to help treat the patient. 

  • Dialectical behavior therapy – Also known as DBT, this type of therapy addresses thoughts and behaviors while also incorporating strategies such as emotional regulation and mindfulness.
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy – Known as REBT, it is based on identifying irrational beliefs, actively challenging said beliefs, and then learning how to now only recognize those beliefs but also change them.
  • Cognitive therapy – Similar to REBT, cognitive therapy also focuses on identifying and changing incorrect and distorted thinking patterns, behaviors, and responses.
  • Multimodal therapy – This type of therapy is based on the thinking that psychological issues should be treated by addressing different modalities including sensation, imagery, behavior, cognition, affect, drug considerations, and interpersonal factors.

What Are Some of the Different Techniques That Are Used During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

While a big component of CBT for addiction is identifying these negative thought patterns, it goes way beyond that. CBT also focuses on using a variety of different strategies and techniques in order to help those people overcome their negative thoughts and actions. Below are some of the more popular techniques used during cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction.

Identifying the Negative Thoughts

Before these negative thoughts and actions can be addressed, they first have to be identified. This is by far the most difficult part of the entire CBT process because it forces the person who is in therapy to recognize and identify things about themselves that they don’t like. However, it is an essential part of the overall process because without identifying the issues, you can’t begin the treatment and recovery process.

Setting Goals

During therapy sessions, the therapist will work with the person who is in therapy to teach them how to set goals for themselves as it pertains to their issues and their recovery. They will work on identifying goals as well as distinguishing between what is considered a short-term goal and a long-term goal. They will then work with the person who is in therapy to set realistic goals for them.

Solving Problems

Learning how to solve problems without the use of drugs or alcohol is a major step in the recovery process. During CBT for substance abuse, the therapist will work with the person who is in therapy on ways that they can solve problems in a healthy way without the use of illicit substances. They will also show them ways to solve problems without it resulting negatively from a psychological standpoint as well. There are 5 steps to problem-solving as it pertains to cognitive behavioral therapy. They are:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Creating a list of possible solutions
  • Evaluating each potential solution
  • Choosing the best solution
  • Implementing said solution

Learning and Practicing New Skills

When the time comes for a person in treatment to return to their normal life, a lot of things will have changed. The way they go about life, the places they go, the people they associate with, and even some of the activities that they do will all be different than before now that they are sober. Learning and then practicing new skills can go a long way when it comes to learning how to live a “new life”. For those in recovery, learning new coping skills as well as practicing ways in which to avoid certain social situations that could trigger a relapse are both particularly crucial.

Learning How To Self-Monitor

Once a person in treatment leaves and re-enters society they won’t have the luxury of someone guiding them 24/7. They will be responsible for their behaviors, feelings, and experiences and the consequences that come with that. They also might come across situations that they want to remember so they can bring them up with their therapist the next time they meet. 

Self-monitoring, or diary work, is a great way to do this. By self-monitoring, they can keep track of certain situations or feelings that arose that made them think about using again so that they can discuss them with their therapist while also holding themselves accountable. During CBT sessions, experienced therapists help their clients develop tools that will help them throughout and after treatment. Self-monitoring and being able to identify unhealthy habits and behaviors is an extension of CBT treatment. 

What Are The Benefits of CBT for Substance Abuse?

The ultimate goal of CBT for addiction and substance abuse is to teach someone that while they can’t control everything that happens in life, they can control how they act and react to situations that occur. That is just one of the many benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some of the other benefits include:

  • A more affordable option compared to some other types of therapy
  • Effective in treating a wide variety of maladaptive behaviors
  • Nearly instant results
  • Can be done either virtually or face-to-face
  • An alternative to psychotropic medication
  • Creating healthier thinking patterns 
  • Develop long-term coping skills

What Can I Expect To Get Out Of CBT for Substance Abuse?

Cognitive behavior therapy isn’t meant as a cure-all. What it is meant to do though is to show you ways in which you can better handle and approach situations and events that come up in our daily lives. It can also show you healthy ways in which you can cope with things without the need for drugs and alcohol. CBT aims to help the individual shift thoughts and behaviors, helping people to have healthy and fulfilling goals and leading to a healthy and fulfilling life. So, how can you get the most out of CBT for addiction?

Be Honest and Open

A person can only get out of therapy what they put into it. In order to have a successful relationship with a therapist, the person in therapy has to be open and willing to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They also have to be open to new ways of thinking. The more open and honest, the more successful it is.

Patience Is A Virtue

Working on complex issues such as the ones brought up during CBT can take a while to get through. It can also take some time to see some results. It’s important while in therapy to be patient and understand that everything can’t be fixed overnight. If it could, you wouldn’t need to be in therapy in the first place. It may take multiple sessions before you begin to notice a difference.

Stick to the Plan

This goes back to the whole concept of you get out of it what you put into it. The therapist created a treatment plan for a reason. In their mind, the treatment plan in place is the best and most effective way for the person that they are treating to get the results they desire. That’s why it is important to stick to the plan no matter how much you might not want to at times. 

Want To Know More About CBT for Addiction?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven to be successful in helping to treat those who are suffering from substance abuse and addiction. At Lifetime Recovery, we are proud to offer a wide variety of treatments and therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy. If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse issue and could benefit from CBT for substance abuse and addiction, call us today. We want everyone that comes to see us to go on to live a happy, healthy, and sober life.