Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the Treatment of Addiction

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly referred to as CBT, is a therapeutic approach developed to help people in recovery recognize their patterns and overcome addictive behaviors. The basis for CBT is the idea that by understanding and recognizing maladaptive patterns and beliefs, they become easier to overcome and, eventually, eliminate.

CBT helps people come to recognize what drives their addiction and addresses those needs in order to stop the pull towards drugs and alcohol. It helps individuals struggling with addiction move beyond these unhealthy behaviors and replace them with productive and healthy alternatives. For instance, an alcoholic may always go to the bar after work. When this alcoholic undergoes CBT, he may come to understand that the bar and beer give him the opportunity to relax and unwind from the day, so he doesn’t take work home. After recognizing the pattern and reason behind it, an alternative can be reached. Instead of going to the bar, he can stop at the local park and take a walk, or go to the gym. . The same goal is reached, without the negative consequence of addiction.

CBT Basics

The fundamentals of CBT are simple. You focus on what you do and how it makes you feel. For those addicted to drugs and alcohol, it typically surrounds specific situations where they may be more likely to engage in addictive behaviors or find themselves in high risk situations. The therapist guides the patient’s thinking by asking questions and giving feedback until the patient comes to their own recognition and understanding. Once that’s in place, alternatives are determined, and if needed, new skills and coping mechanisms learned.

Here are some of the things that make CBT successful in the treatment of addiction.

  • CBT is short-term. Even outside of addiction treatment, CBT does not typically last longer than six months. Once you understand the thinking that gets you into trouble, you learn to adjust. There is a trial and error period, but because the process is just two-fold, it doesn’t need extensive, lengthy treatment.
  • CBT is focus driven. With CBT, there is always a focus. This isn’t just talk therapy, where you go in and sit down and discuss your day. Each therapeutic session has a specific goal in mind and that’s what is worked on.
  • CBT focuses on the patient’s goals. When you engage in CBT therapy, the goals you work towards are your own. You determine them, not the therapist. A good therapist may use guided discovery to help you see the bigger picture, but ultimately, it’s your decision what issues to address.

CBT has proven to be effective in the treatment of addiction because it helps people understand why they use drugs or alcohol and how it makes them feel, and provides an opportunity to replace it with healthy alternatives.