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How Does CBT Help a Person Overcome Addiction?

CBT in Addiction Treatment

How Does CBT Help a Person Overcome Addiction?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, known as CBT, is a non-12 step approach to addiction treatment.  This treatment method helps recovering addicts reverse unhealthy behaviors that contributed to their addiction.  The CBT approach is founded on understanding why a person abuses drugs or alcohol. Experts believe that the physical dependence on addictive substances is a symptom of an underlying problem.  Once these issues are addressed professionally, the person is less likely to relapse. CBT in addiction treatment is a proven and highly effective component of a comprehensive program.

CBT is a combination of evidence-based therapies known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, and Rational Behavior Therapy.  The two main components of CBT are functional analysis and skills training.

Functional analysis focuses on helping the person identify the thoughts and feelings or circumstances that he or she experiences before and after using a substance.  Skills training allows patients to unlearn destructive habits and replace them with healthier behaviors.

Factors to Consider Before Using CBT in Addiction Treatment

When considering CBT in addiction treatment, a person needs to understand the key components of the program so they will know what to expect.  For instance:

  • CBT is not a long-term therapy.  It has a specified time for completion.
  • It is highly structured with specific agendas and based on what the client wants, not what the therapist wants.   The patient reveals his or her goals and the therapist helps guide the person in such a way that to facilitate reaching the goals.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is proven by solid clinical trials to be effective.
  • The method is flexible and can be utilized in an inpatient or outpatient environment in both group or individual sessions.
  • CBT is founded on the belief that our behaviors are learned reactions.  The therapy helps a person identify their dysfunctional responses and lean ways to avoid repeating that behavior in the future.  It’s about understanding what needs to change.
  • The therapy sessions are interactive.  The patient is encouraged to share his or her wants, needs, and concerns.

Overall, the cognitive model of therapy seeks to address the fact that a person’s reactions are based on their perception of a situation than the situation itself.  The goal is to help a person think more realistically and discard distorted thought patterns that lead to poor decision-making. The skills learned in CBT in addiction treatment can be applied in all areas of a person’s life.

What is Distorted or Dysfunctional Thinking?

As mentioned earlier, addiction is the result of underlying problems coupled with the effects of addictive substances on the brain.  Most addicts struggle with emotional issues, dysfunctional family life, genetic predisposition to addiction, environmental issues and more.  Some of the problems were contributing factors to the addiction, while others occurred because of the addiction. Nevertheless, the person must learn new ways of thinking and better methods for coping with stressful situations.

Some of the distorted thought patterns addressed during CBT include:

Fortune Telling – You assume you know what is going to happen.  For instance, your negative thought patterns may convince you that you won’t get the new job or promotion or be approved for a loan.  This distorted thinking can keep you from taking positive steps toward attaining your goals.

Mind Reading – Many people assume that they know what someone else is thinking.  Thinking that someone considers you stupid or that they don’t like you is a form of mind reading.  Despite any evidence to support this thought process, you base your reaction to that person on your perceived notions.

Over-Generalizing – Jumping to conclusions or seeing things as all-or-nothing can jeopardize a project or influence your opinion of a person.  If there is one thing that upsets you or bothers you, you decide to abandon the project or the person.

Catastrophizing – Exaggerating or imagining the worst outcome.  For instance, if your boss wants to talk to you, you imagine that you are in trouble or will be fired.  Or, it rains on the first day of vacation, so you believe that it will ruin the rest of the trip as well.

Summary of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Goals

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is designed to help clients reach specific goals.  Emphasis on helping a person understand their emotions leads to distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy feelings.  CBT in addiction treatment shows a person how their distorted perceptions contribute to the painful feelings they experience. The therapist guides the patient through examining their current situation to solve problems.  Finally, CBT teaches clients how to develop improved self-control and change core beliefs that have fueled their addiction.

If you would like to know more about CBT, contact us today.  Also, if you or a loved one is in search of a treatment program for drug or alcohol addiction, we can help.

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