Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

cognitive behavioral therapy

Founded by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based mental health counseling technique.

In addition to treating several mental health issues, CBT is widely used in addiction treatment today.

First Off, What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of ‘talk therapy’ where the client is encouraged to speak up about their problems and issues at hand.

This treatment technique is based on the principles of ‘Behaviorism’, according to which it is possible to change or modify people’s behavior, and theories of ‘Cognition’, which focus on understanding the way people think, feel, and perceive themselves and the world around them.

CBT is a behavior modification therapy that aims to change people’s behavior patterns by pairing positive and negative reinforcements or rewards and punishments with the behaviors that an individual wants to promote or discourage.

A typical session of CBT involves exploring what the client wants to do and evaluating what they actually do. This insightful session may help the client better understand themselves, what they want, and why they are doing what they are doing.

By helping the clients look at their problem more closely and break it into smaller elements, Cognitive Behavior Therapy focuses on pushing them to find healthy solutions to solve it.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

cbt for addiction

For many drug addicts, addiction is a behavior pattern that may not be exactly what they want to do yet they cannot find it in them to stop doing it.

This is why Cognitive Behavior Therapy may prove to be a helpful addiction treatment technique.

According to the CBT approach, addictive behaviors including substance use, drinking, gambling, and other excessive behaviors that may be harmful to an individual are subconsciously encouraged by negative feelings and unhealthy thoughts. This is why many addicts, despite genuinely wanting to change their behavior pattern and get rid of their bad habit, find it challenging to just quit.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy attempts to explain this by clarifying the interaction between people’s thoughts and emotions. Expert psychologists believe that many of the thoughts of addicts are based on beliefs that are either untrue or unrealistic. Addiction changes the mind of the people and creates an unhealthy environment of negative thoughts, protruding emotions, and compulsions for further drug use. All these elements can affect the way an addict relates to the reality and change the way they perceive their drug abuse and addiction.

This is the reason why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on helping the addicts record their thoughts and associated feelings systemically and identify the triggers that cause these feelings and thoughts. It also helps them recognize the behavior pattern that they follow in response to those thoughts and feelings. It is believed that this approach can modify the automatic processes of negative thoughts and feelings that hinder the client’s way of changing faulty behaviors.             

CBT allows the addicts to look at situations in a more realistic way and consciously focus on their thought and behavior patterns. The idea is to reinforce the healthy behaviors that are to replace the negative ones so that eventually, the former will be associated with positive emotions and become more automatic.

The mantra of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is simple:

When an addict knows why they feel or act a certain way and how all that is linked to drug use and addiction, they are better equipped to beat their addiction.

How CBT Works as an Addiction Treatment

Cognitive Behavior Therapy helps drug addicts overcome addiction by using the following techniques:

  • Helping them dismiss faulty beliefs and insecurities leading to drug abuse
  • Teaching self-help strategies to improve their mood and thoughts
  • Teaching healthy communication skills

In addition to helping drug addicts use these techniques to quit the abuse of drugs, CBT also focuses on the notorious ‘triggers’ that keep many addicted people from quitting and getting sober.

The psychological treatment technique teaches three key ways to the recovering addicts to deal with triggers and cravings, which include:

  1. Recognize

The first step to managing triggers is to recognize which situations are to be blamed for drinking alcohol or using drugs.

  1. Avoid

Once the problematic circumstances are identified, one should try to avoid them and remove themselves from there whenever possible.

  1. Cope

The last step is to use the techniques of CBT to address and reduce the thoughts and feelings that give way to drug abuse.  

Knowing how to effectively avoid triggers will help addicts reach their goal of sobriety and ensure life-long drug riddance.

The Types of Drug Addiction That CBT Can Treat

Although Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be used to treat addiction to almost all types of drugs, there are certain forms of substance abuse that it may treat better than others.

Research suggests that CBT is an effective treatment technique for drug abuse and addiction for the following substances:

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Alcohol

While CBT may work great for individuals who are addicted to a single substance, those with polydrug addiction may benefit more when CBT is combined with other addiction treatments. CBT is an evidence-based approach that has shown long-lasting results when used for different types of drug abuse.

The Treatment of Mental Disorders Co-occurring with Addiction

It is not uncommon for drug addicts to experience some mental health issues alongside their addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been seen to successfully treat the mental health disorders that are likely to co-occur with substance abuse and addiction.

Some of the common co-occurring mental health problems that CBT can treat include:

  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)

If you are struggling with drug addiction or know someone who wants to quit drug use but is not able to, getting in touch with a professional might be the right thing to do. With the help of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a mental health expert can help you stay focused on the path to sobriety. At the Arizona Addiction Recovery Center, you can get in touch with a professional to get proper treatment to overcome addiction once and for all!