Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a therapy model that aims to give patients tools to understand the two-way connection between thoughts and behaviors, and the effects that both have on their emotions. This is an effective model for treating substance misuse.
In the short-term, it provides tools to ease the symptoms of addiction. In the long-term, CBT treats many of the underlying causes that lead to addiction.
Therefore, an addiction treatment program that utilizes CBT will help not just today, but for years to come.
Modern Cognitive Behavioral Tools
A major component of CBT is developing self-awareness. In an addiction treatment program, this skill will be directed at awareness of the internal and external triggers that lead to substance abuse. CBT is a very active, practical style of therapy. While the goal is to eventually internalize the skills to such an extent that healthy choices become automatic, or at least easy, in the beginning patients will practice developing awareness through writing. Patients log cravings (ideally as they arise), noting what was going on in their surroundings and what thoughts they were having just before the craving came on.
After pinpointing the internal (cognitive) and external (behavioral) triggers for use, people can develop if-then plans for how to avoid the triggers they can and confront the ones they must.
Developing healthy coping mechanisms for unavoidable challenges is essential to successful sober living outside of an inpatient addiction treatment program. CBT teaches patients a broad range of techniques to distract themselves from stressors and delay engaging in negative behaviors. If they can distract and delay long enough, there’s a good chance the craving will pass.
Long Term Benefits of CBT
The long-term benefits of using CBT in an addiction treatment program include warding off relapse by resetting the mental habits that lead to habitual substance abuse. Once people can successfully recognize triggering thoughts as they arise, they can learn how to challenge those thoughts.
A CBT-trained therapist can help patients practice fact-checking their thoughts, get out of black-and-white thinking and catastrophizing, and introduce believable positive thoughts into their mental repertoire. No addiction treatment program is 100% effective forever, so another benefit of using CBT in addiction treatment is that it can reduce the resulting harm if and when relapse does happen. By getting out of all-or-nothing thought patterns, CBT teaches people to avoid the shame spiral that can turn one mistake into a lifetime of hopelessness.
Another component of CBT that provides a lifelong weapon against addiction is the development of problem solving skills to face life’s inevitable challenges head-on. Raising awareness of the sources of unhappiness is the unpleasant but necessary first step to dealing with them. CBT teaches how to break down problem solving into manageable steps and consciously choose the best available option in any given scenario.
CBT in Partnership with an Addiction Treatment Programs is a Great Option
CBT goes beyond trying to lessen negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Ultimately it is about building a life worth living. CBT is effective in treating addiction because it gives people a reason to show up fully present for their lives, and the tools to do so.