Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in Addiction Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used in the sphere of addiction treatment and rehabilitation. The goal of this form of therapy would be to teach you how to find the connections between your actions, feelings, and thoughts as well as increase your awareness of all these connections on your recovery from substance abuse and dependence.

About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Also known as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the common forms of therapy. It was initially proposed by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s for use in the management of mental health disorders.

The foundation of CBT is to help people address the problematic feelings and thoughts that they have so that they can be able to overcome the mental distress that they are experiencing. It is also used to help clients overcome substance abuse and addiction.

The goal of this form of therapy would be to teach you to find the connections between your feelings, actions, and thoughts as well as increase your awareness of how these connections are impacting your recovery.

Although CBT is commonly used in addiction treatment, it is also used to treat other disorders that often occur at the same time as addiction - including but not limited to anxiety, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

How It Works

Cognitive behavioral therapists will show you that many harmful emotions and actions are not rational or logical. These behaviors and feelings might arise from your environmental factors or past experiences.

While struggling with addiction and you enroll in a treatment program that uses this form of therapy, you will get the opportunity to understand why you act and feel in a certain given way. You will also learn how your actions and feelings eventually lead to drug and alcohol abuse. As a result, you will be in a better position to overcome your addiction.

The professionals who use cognitive behavioral therapy will also help you identify your negative automatic thoughts. These thoughts are based on impulse. In many cases, they come from internalized feelings of fear and self-doubt as well as from misconceptions that you may have.

Often, you might try self-medicating these painful feelings and thoughts by abusing drugs and drinking alcohol in excess. During your recovery from addiction, you will get the opportunity to revisit these painful memories. In the process, you may be able to reduce the pain that they cause. You will also learn new and positive behaviors that you can use as a replacement for your substance use.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Anxiety disorders and depression are often caused by automatic negative thoughts. In turn, these disorders often tend to co-occur alongside addiction. To this end, it is essential to keep in mind that your automatic thoughts might increase your likelihood of abusing alcohol and drugs.

That said, many addiction treatment programs can use cognitive behavioral therapy to help you overcome your substance use disorder by helping to dismiss the false insecurities and beliefs that led to your drug and alcohol use. You will also be provided with self-help tools that you can use to improve your moods as well as learn more effective communication skills.

This form of therapy will also address triggers - the situations that cause you to crave drugs and alcohol. It will accomplish this goal by helping you deal with triggers in different ways.

According to NIDA - the National Institute on Drug Abuse - cognitive behavioral therapy can help you recognize and identify the circumstances that led to your substance abuse. You will also learn how to avoid and remove yourself from all triggering situations whenever appropriate and possible. Further, CBT techniques can prove useful in showing you how to cope with, address, and eventually alleviate the thoughts and emotions that caused your drug abuse.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you can practice cognitive behavioral therapy techniques both inside as well as outside your therapist's office. This means that you will have the opportunity to do as many of these exercises on your own - both in group settings as well as on your own at home.

Common Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

That said, there are specific exercises and techniques that you will use with your therapists to help you overcome your substance abuse and addiction as well as recover from a period of ongoing chemical dependency. Some of these techniques that cognitive behavioral therapy will use in helping you achieve recovery include:

a) Behavioral Experiments

Behavioral experiments include exercises that will contrast your negative thoughts against others that are more positive so that you can see the ones that are more effective in bringing about behavioral change. This is because there are people who respond better to self-criticism and others to self-kindness. Behavioral experiments could help you figure out what would work best for your individual situation.

For instance, you may think that you will be less susceptible to binge drinking if you are hard on yourself. Alternatively, you may be able to accomplish this goal by talking kindly to yourself after you have engaged in binge drinking.

b) Thought Records

As a recovering addict, you will have to examine your automatic negative thoughts as well as look for any objective evidence that disproves or supports these thoughts. You will be required to list evidence against and for your automatic thoughts so that you can compare and contrast them. The primary goal would be to think less harsh and more balanced thoughts by evaluating - and critically so - what you have been thinking.

For instance, if you feel that you partner thinks that you are useless, you may find yourself drinking to feel much better. However, cognitive behavioral therapy will teach you that it is normal for you to make some mistakes from time to time - and that it is possible to learn in the process. By learning from your mistakes, your partner will appreciate you and see that you are heeding their advice. As such, you will realize that you do not need to drink alcohol to improve your feelings about yourself.

c) Imagery Based Exposure

While doing this exercise, you will be required to think of memories that produce powerful and negative feelings. You will take note of every thought, impulse, emotion, sound, and sight that occur to you at that exact moment. Through revisiting painful memories on a frequent basis, you can potentially reduce the anxiety that they cause.

For example, if you focus on painful memories for your childhood, you will be able to recall every emotion and detail in the moment. By exposing yourself repeatedly to this emotion, you will feel less and less painful memories. As a result, this could potentially reduce your likelihood or even need of self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

Getting Help

Through these and other techniques and practices, cognitive behavioral therapy can prove to be an effective tool in helping you overcome your substance abusing habits, thought patterns, and feelings.

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