Drug or alcohol addiction, also known as a substance use disorder, is a chronic brain disease. Overcoming addiction requires not only breaking physical dependence on the substance but also addressing the mental and emotional components of addiction. Therapy is an effective, evidence-based approach to dealing with underlying thoughts and emotions that drive addiction, and cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most popular forms of addiction therapy.
What Is Behavioral Cognitive Therapy?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), also known as cognitive behavioral therapy, is a form of talk therapy that takes place under the guidance of a certified therapist or counselor. CBT helps people become aware of disturbing, destructive, or inaccurate patterns of thought that negatively influence their emotions or behaviors. The main focus of CBT is changing the negative automatic thoughts a person has that often cause their emotional difficulties, anxiety, or depression to worsen. Once a person is aware of their negative thinking, they can see challenging situations in a clear way. They can respond to them more objectively and effectively.
CBT sessions involve active participation by the client and dialogue with the therapist. Typically, the therapist and client determine the client’s specific problems, set goals to address those problems, and then work toward fulfilling those goals in practical ways. Thus, CBT is often a short-term treatment (weeks or months, not years) with a predetermined number of sessions.
Four Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT has branched off over the years into four types of therapy that use CBT principles. These types of therapy include:
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which brings meditation into the CBT sessions to cultivate nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which also focuses on problem-solving but is especially useful for severe mental health conditions and for learning to cope with crises
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), which helps clients recognize their own irrational beliefs and then actively challenge them
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which teaches clients how to accept and work with strong emotions and uses techniques of positive reinforcement
Techniques Used in CBT
CBT uses several techniques to help clients change distorted thinking patterns:
- Cognitive reframing or restructuring: this technique asks the client to deeply explore their negative thought patterns and how their thoughts affect their behaviors and emotions. Once negative thoughts are identified, they are reframed or restructured, allowing for a more realistic, positive, and productive outcome. For example, a negative thought like, “I relapsed because I’m a self-destructive loser,” becomes, “It’s unfortunate that I relapsed, but I’m committed to recovery, and I can use this experience to learn more about what I need to be healthy.”
- Role-playing: Clients role-play ways of working through difficult situations to help lessen their fear and understand potential outcomes. Role-playing improves communication and problem-solving skills and can be used for assertiveness training, practicing social skills, and improving confidence in certain situations.
- Relaxation and stress reduction techniques: Learning how to reduce stress may be part of CBT sessions. Therapists may teach progressive relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. Each of these stress-reducing techniques increases a person’s sense of control.
- Exposure therapy: This technique is generally used to help clients face their phobias and fears. The therapist gradually and carefully provokes feelings of anxiety associated with the object, situation, or person the client fears. As the client’s fears arise, the therapist provides guidance on ways to cope with the feelings..
- Guided discovery: In this technique, the therapist asks questions to understand the client’s viewpoint and then to expand the client’s thinking by challenging those beliefs. This helps clients learn how to see things from a different perspective.
- Journaling: Between therapy sessions, clients may be encouraged to keep track of their negative thoughts as well as any alternative positive thoughts that arise. They may also record their experience of practicing the new behaviors and thoughts learned in therapy sessions.
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. You are not alone. Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. Call and speak to a caring, skilled professional at Anabranch Recovery Center, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. We will answer your questions and help you begin your journey to health.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.