Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in Addiction Treatment: How it Works
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely used psychotherapy for treating substance use disorders and mental health conditions. CBT supports individuals in thoroughly examining the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and actions. There has been extensive research into how a person thinks, acts, and feels that will impact a person’s behavior and responses to others and situations. To effectively heal from drug or alcohol addiction or learn how to manage any co-occurring disorders or mental health issues, a crucial step in the healing process is to examine the patterns of behaviors and emotions that have influenced your drug or alcohol addiction and ability to cope with symptoms of your mental health concern. Numerous studies have demonstrated that CBT is a more effective healing tool than psychiatric medicine and practices. The foundation of a CBT approach is based on the fact that most emotional and behavioral responses are learned rather than someone born with them. That means that any learned behaviors can be changed through shifting behavioral and emotional responses.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on several core principles:
- Individuals experiencing psychological concerns are rooted in unhelpful or harmful thinking processes.
- Those dealing with psychological concerns have a history of learned patterns of behavior, including unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors.
- People that are struggling with psychological issues have the ability to develop healthier, effective coping strategies that will reduce and maintain any presenting symptoms from your addiction or mental health concerns.
If you are experiencing a severe addiction to drugs and alcohol, you know that you want to get help to overcome your addictive behaviors and enter into a lifestyle of sober living. You may have attempted to quit in the past but found that your attempts were unsuccessful. This failure is not a reflection of you as a person. Still, it demonstrates the need to address the underlying emotions, behaviors, and thoughts influencing your addictive behaviors. Often, it can be hard to identify these patterns without the support of a licensed therapist who will complete individual therapy sessions and various exercises that will assist you in taking a deeper look at what is at the core of your addictive and mental behaviors and health concerns.
How Does CBT Work?
The basis of how cognitive behavioral therapy works is to support the patient in addressing and identifying unhelpful or harmful thinking, resulting in poor behavioral and emotional responses. Once you have established your thought processes and emotions that have been impacting your behaviors and responses, you will then be able to work towards shifting your behaviors and reactions through various coping strategies.
Through individual therapy sessions and group therapy processes, you will be supported by a therapist who will work with you to understand your “automatic thoughts.” An automatic thought is based on your impulses and knee-jerk reactions. These reactions will be stemmed from deep-rooted internalized emotions, most often fear and self-doubt, that have influenced how you perceive the world around you and the interactions that you are having. As a method of self-medicating or managing these emotions, many will turn to substance abuse to numb or dull the emotions to function throughout the day. Your counselor will work with you to examine the core reasons you are experiencing these emotions and what has contributed to these self-destructive thought patterns. By revisiting the painful memories and traumas with a counselor, you will be able to effectively process the past to allow your body and brain to begin shifting their thought and emotional responses to healthy, positive responses that will prevent you from turning back to substance abuse.
Before beginning your cognitive behavioral therapy, you will first sit down with your counselor, who will take the time to complete a questionnaire with you that will inform the therapist of the severity of your addiction and any co-occurring disorders. This process will help create a specific treatment plan that will target the areas of healing growth needed. After discussing how your drugs and alcohol addiction have impacted you and your lifestyle along with the effects on mental health, you will then create goals for your treatment and establish the addictive behaviors and thinking patterns you would like to change. This information will support your therapist in choosing the proper therapeutic techniques to assist you in shifting your distorted thinking and behaviors.
What Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is most commonly known for treating co-occurring mental health disorders and addiction to drugs and alcohol or other behavioral addictions such as porn addictions, eating disorders, or gambling addictions.
Common mental illnesses that CBT is used as a primary treatment method are:
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
How CBT Is Used in Addiction Treatment
When you are living with a substance use disorder, you have experienced the negative impacts that situational, environmental, and emotional triggers can have on your ability to abstain from abusing drugs and alcohol. CBT treatment methods will support patients in learning the tools for relapse prevention by effectively teaching techniques to overcome triggers in three fundamental ways:
- Recognize: identify what underlying emotions and circumstances have influenced your drug and alcohol abuse
- Avoid: determine what places, situations, and people can be triggers for you and make a plan to avoid putting yourself in these instances that create triggers.
- Cope: develop new coping skills through cbt techniques that will help alleviate and mitigate any emotions or thoughts that impact your substance abuse.
For addiction treatment in cognitive behavioral therapy, you and your therapist will work towards common goals and outcomes that will better support you in the future to remain clean and sober from drugs and alcohol. Patients will be working towards the following skills and coping skills:
- Forming new life skills and habits that will foster your newfound life in addiction recovery
- Develop new interpersonal and relationship skills that will ensure that you can have positive communication and interaction with others
- Learn how to manage and reduce any feelings of stress and anxiety
- Establish new patterns of thinking that will be balanced and positive rather than having negative outlooks and responses
- Develop the ability to express your emotions in a constructive, healthy manner, openly
- Establish healthy coping skills and techniques that will maintain balanced emotional and mental health
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Techniques Used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Your therapist will utilize various techniques to further your growth and capacity to overcome any potential triggers and unsettling emotions and thoughts.
Common techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy are:
- Thought records: Individuals in addiction treatment can explore the automatic negative thoughts that occur within them and identify any evidence that supports or disprove these thought patterns. To do this, individuals will be asked to create a list for and against evidence for these negative thought patterns. This process will help to think more rationally and reduce harmful thoughts by opening up thought patterns to critical evaluation.
- Behavioral experiment: These exercises support patients by having them examine the difference between negative and positive thoughts to understand which is more effective in changing or shifting behavior.
- Imagery-based exposure: The patient will think of a memory that causes them to have powerful negative feelings and responses. As the memory is reflected and negative emotions occur, the patient will consider every sound, thought, emotion, sight, and impulse within that moment. The goal is for the patient to reduce the negative emotions and anxiety from the painful memory the more it is revisited and processed.
- Pleasant activity schedule: This CBT technique will invite individuals to create a weekly list of fun, healthy, engaging activities that are easy and fun to complete, which will support in breaking up daily routines. These planned activities or disruptions will help reduce any negative automatic thoughts and decrease your potential to become triggered to use drugs and alcohol.
- Role-playing: The patient and therapist will complete role-playing scenarios that mimic any problematic interactions you foresee occurring. This will help the patient to learn healthy interpersonal skills and also a means of overcoming fears or uncertainty about encountering triggering situations by providing the patient with practice in using coping skills learned through cbt practices.
How to Decide if CBT Is the Right Treatment for You
If you have experienced the trials and tribulations of substance abuse and have proclaimed multiple times you are going to quit binge drinking or abusing drugs but found you are unable to do so, the support of CBT can support you in determining what is at the root of your addictive behaviors. There are many forms of addiction treatment, making it hard to decide on which method of addiction treatment is proper for you. If you are unsure if CBT is the best form of addiction therapy to take, contact one of the compassionate counselors at Muse Treatment by calling (800) 426-1818 today. A member of our team would be happy to support you in identifying the right course of action for your addiction treatment plans at our drug rehab facility.