Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

Silver Ridge Recovery uses a combination of treatments and therapies to improve outcomes for people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Along with individual counseling sessions and group support meetings, the majority of drug rehab facilities also incorporate specialized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into the treatment program.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recognizes that CBT methods taught during rehab treatments tend to remain with the person in recovery even after leaving rehab. CBT has also been shown to be effective in reducing drug use in recovering people particularly when it is combined with medications and other types of behavioral therapies.

Cognitive behavioral therapy was originally developed as a treatment method intended to reduce the risk of relapse in people with alcohol abuse disorders. As more was learned about the method’s effectiveness, it was soon adapted for treating people addicted to stimulant drugs, such as cocaine.

Before long, CBT began to be used to treat a range of different psychological disorders. The method has now become recognized as a highly effective evidence-based treatment used in most rehab treatment programs.

How Does CBT Work?

How Does CBT Work

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a specialized method of treatment designed to treat certain psychological disorders. The objective of CBT strategies is to positively teach recovering people a specific range of coping skills and techniques that can be used to improve mental health outcomes.

CBT practitioners recognize that many people who go to the therapy sessions are unmotivated to change who they are and what they believe, particularly at the beginning of a treatment program. Those in recovery can gain some insight into why they think the way they do, but therapy helps evaluate those thoughts as they relate to their emotions and actions.

Instead of addressing a person’s motivation to stay sober, CBT actively works to discover and assess the negative thoughts and feelings that drive certain behaviors. When those thoughts are examined, a recovering person works with a therapist to begin developing some strong new coping skills designed to reduce the risk of relapse.

At its core, CBT is based on the idea that knowledge is power. The more a person knows and understands about their own disorder, the better equipped they are to recognize symptoms and put newly learned coping skills into practice throughout the recovery process.

The Method Behind the Therapy

CBT works on the premise that problems aren’t necessarily caused by situations. Instead, problems are caused by how people interpret situations within their own thoughts. Those thoughts then color the person’s emotions, which affect the way they feel, which then drive their subsequent actions and behaviors.The method works by first teaching recovering people to identify and recognize their own symptoms or triggers.

For example, the person may be experiencing negative thoughts about themselves or their view of the world or other people around them.

The next step in the CBT strategy is to teach the recovering person to assess any negative or problematic thoughts, emotions or behaviors that exist. Counseling then begins working to find positive ways to replace those feelings with positive or constructive thoughts and actions.

Throughout therapy sessions, each person learns a range of positive ways to deal with their own individual negative thoughts and behaviors that could contribute to addictive behaviors. Some of the new skills learned may focus solely on reducing the risk of relapse, while others are more generalized and may be helpful for dealing with everyday life more effectively.

Other techniques focus on self-monitoring in an effort to identify and recognize early warning signs of potential relapse or to recognize and address cravings. When certain warning signs are recognized, the person is then in a stronger position to put positive coping skills learned in rehab into practice.

The overall goal of cognitive behavioral therapy sessions is to give a recovering person the tools needed to recognize and change negative behaviors and replace them with positive thoughts and actions. 

With the right coping skills in place, most people leaving rehab should be able to more confidently face their fears, cope with urges and cravings, and deal with stressful situations without reverting to self-destructive or negative behaviors.

Another crucial aspect of effective CBT treatment is learning to anticipate any problems that are likely to arise. For example, therapy sessions may ask the person in recovery to imagine certain high-risk relapse situations that could be challenging in everyday life.

Counseling works to enhance each person’s individual self-control by helping them to develop their own unique coping strategies. Techniques might include encouraging recovering people to find ways to consider both the positive and negative consequences of returning to substance abuse after a period of abstinence.

How Effective is CBT?

How Effective is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy_

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been a well-established method of treatment for drug or alcohol addiction for more than two decades. Studies show that CBT strategies can produce a significantly positive effect for treating drug or alcohol addiction and reducing the risk of relapsing back into self-destructive patterns of behavior after leaving rehab treatment.

Research also shows that CBT can be more effective than some medications for treating a variety of mental health conditions. The studies indicate that CBT strategies can help relieve anxiety and depression. It is also useful for treating personality disorders, anger and aggression issues, insomnia, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

Misconceptions about CBT

Lots of people are initially apprehensive about entering into cognitive behavioral therapy. Some tend to believe the approach will try to change who they are as individuals, while others worry they will be somehow forced to change everything they believe.

There are also misconceptions that CBT is nothing more than learning to replace negative thoughts into positive thoughts. While CBT strategies do focus strongly on identifying negative thoughts and behaviors and finding positive ways to replace those emotions and behaviors, there is much more involved in treatment than just positive thinking.

In reality, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches recovering people to explore more flexible ways of thinking, particularly when faced with a high-risk challenge or potential trigger situation. Those in recovery learn to assess any emotions or feelings that arise in those situations. The recovering person is then taught to act to address those situations based on specific strategies and lessons learned during therapy sessions.

What Happens in CBT Sessions?

What Happens in CBT Sessions

Each CBT counseling session is tailored to suit each person’s unique needs. While every CBT practitioner will have their own approaches, the structure of therapy will still be similar across all rehab treatment programs.

The person in recovery and counselor decide together which aspects to focus on during each session. Specific problems, challenges or triggers can then be broken down into sections, which can make it easier for a person to learn more about their own emotions and behaviors.

Together, they are able to discuss those thoughts and feelings. The recovering person learns to determine whether those emotions or behaviors are unhelpful or destructive or otherwise causing problems with the recovery process.

When certain triggers or symptoms are identified and recognized, a counselor can then begin working with the recovering person to develop positive new coping strategies for dealing with them in positive ways. Just as the triggers and emotions behind each person’s behaviors are unique to them, the actual coping skills and tools used may differ for each person and will also need to be customized to suit.

A good therapist will set tasks to work on outside of the therapy session. The goal is to encourage putting the newly learned coping skills and mechanisms into practice, effectively learning to self-modify thoughts, actions and behaviors independently.

Integrating CBT into Life after Rehab Treatment

integrating cbt into life after rehab

The methods behind cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to be effective for managing cravings and changing negative behaviors in people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. However, CBT can also be useful for treating a variety of mental health issues that may accompany the addiction recovery process.

For example, CBT techniques and various other alternative rehab therapies have been used to relieve symptoms of stress and reduce the severity of symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The methods and skills learned during CBT sessions don’t end when treatment is complete. Instead, most people discharged from an intensive addiction rehab treatment program like Silver Ridge Recovery take those newly learned skills with them.

During therapy, a recovering person also begins learning new activities that are not related to drug or alcohol use. Once the person has left rehab, those non-use related activities can be useful ways to maintain routines learned during treatment, which further reinforce the CBT techniques learned.

Lessons and coping skills learned through CBT sessions become ingrained with practice. By the time a recovering person is discharged from rehab, they should have the range of recovery skills needed to monitor and modify their own behaviors, placing them in a stronger position to continue making positive, ongoing changes within their own lives long into the future.