Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Perhaps the most valuable asset available to those participating in rehab for substance abuse is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy directs focus on the thoughts and feelings that are associated with addiction and reoccurring substance use. Also referred to as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to explore the awareness of the psychological connection to addiction. CBT for substance abuse is often a part of addiction treatment.

Understanding how important it is to recognize emotions that drive addiction is the first step toward amending them. Psychological well-being is an important aspect of rehab and will have valuable impacts on maintaining recovery.

A Closer Look at CBT

Addiction, being the complicated disorder that it is, is both a physical disease and a mental health disorder. Like every illness, psychological connection and management capability must both be taken into consideration for proper treatment. The immediate availability of CBT during rehab has proven widely successful and promotes emotional stability during trying times. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy, designed in the early 1960’s, has been quite effective throughout the years. The greatest appeal of CBT for substance abuse is its ability to adapt therapy to the needs of each individual. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy sessions are a part of treatment for a variety of illnesses and types of addictions. Notably, CBT is an exceptional tool for diagnosing and treating co-occurring disorders that can hinder recovery efforts without proper consideration. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychological Illness

A great majority of addicts that seek treatment for substance abuse are unknowingly suffering from an underlying mental illness. When this is the case, afflicted with mental illness and an addiction disorder, the diagnosis is called a co-occurring disorder

In order to treat co-occurring disorders during rehab, cognitive behavioral therapy sessions help to break the emotional connection between them. While doing so, providing alternative solutions as they become necessary. Many times, emotions, feelings, and behaviors are derivatives of certain mental illnesses. Unfortunately, they often reinforce the desire to continue to abuse substances. Individuals may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate. They may do so either for relief or to avoid the discomfort of the underlying illness. As a result, substance dependency can quickly develop. 

In CBT for substance abuse, an addict can gain awareness of how one illness may be affecting the other. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders that benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy sessions include:  

  • Attention disorders, such as ADD or ADH
  • Mania, Personality Disorders, or Bipolar Disorders
  • Anorexia, Bulimia, Pica, or other eating disorders

Getting a proper diagnosis for psychological illnesses that contribute to a co-occurring disorder is important to achieve and sustain sobriety. If left untreated, it can obstruct sobriety or even provoke relapse. If a psychological illness is preventing your willingness to seek treatment for addiction, consider that CBT treats both. In order to ensure an effective outcome, rehab programs include cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.   

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

cbt for substance abuse

Believe it or not, the thoughts and internal dialogue during any particular situation can determine the nature of the outcome. It is important to become aware of the feelings and emotions that active addiction entertains. 

Associating emotions and feelings with an illness is a usual human response. These psychological reactions prompt behaviors that will sway actions in one direction or another. This means it is important to be aware of them. 

When addictive substances have influence over these emotions, skewing them, negative associations develop. The majority of the time (prompted by the feelings derived from addiction), this promotes conduct that lacks logical reason. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions function to expose triggers that inspire these emotions rooted in addictive patterns. This makes it important to explore environmental elements and past experiences, within areas where addiction was able to develop. 

These experiences may be trauma-related, requiring a delicate therapeutic approach. When there is a suspicion of post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological intervention is typically necessary. Working to separate the feelings derived from trauma versus those after addiction became intertwined, requires developing new effective coping mechanisms. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Exposes Negative Thought Patterns

CBT for substance abuse requires one to look deeper into their subconscious to uncover triggers that may be less obvious at the surface. Often, these feelings come about as if they are automatic, especially after allowed for a long duration of time.

Since it can be unpleasant or even scary to do so alone, many are reluctant without encouragement from a professional. Using individual therapy to build a relationship with a therapist encourages openness to the program, reinsuring safety and support. 

During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, therapists work with the individual to become more aware of what prompts addiction’s impulsive thoughts. Rehab professionals trained in this practice uphold an environment of comfort and empathy, while continuing to enforce forward strides. Once exposed, these negative emotional triggers can be adjusted, or even simply become understood as an unnecessary occurrence to omit. 

Combining CBT and Additional Addiction Therapy

As creatures of habit, we tend to internalize the negative feelings we experience, based on the unwelcomed reactions of others. Realistically, they are typically based on misconceptions of how we assume others do, or will, perceive us. 

Instead of addressing these emotions properly, addicts rely on substance abuse to cope. Often doing so after entertaining the development of a lack of self-worth and overwhelming self-doubt. These painful or even fearful thoughts that occur frequently, can be replaced with positive behaviors and thought patterns once aware. 

Fortunately, after identifying where miscommunications occur during CBT for substance abuse, adopting new practices can be enlightening and exciting. During rehab, participating in meditation, yoga, or even periodic self-reflection is encouraged, and holistic style treatments are offered for beginners. 

CBT, combined with participation in holistic treatment options, allows for individuals to adopt new practices to reinforce their awareness. Instead of relying on drugs or alcohol to soothe painful memories, or cope with distress, proactive activities take their place.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy During Addiction Treatment

Unhealthy thought responses are likely the initial cause for the worsening of psychological illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Whether mental illness contributed to addiction, or the other way around, they often coincide. This leads rehab therapists to conclude that by regaining control of thought responses, individuals can overcome addiction. 

In order to begin gaining control over the mind, drug and alcohol rehab treatment typically begins by detoxifying the body. While under the influence or dependent on harmful substances, an individual will not be able to think clearly. During detox, an addict will have the opportunity to rid these mind-altering toxins from the body, making effective change possible. 

Though not an easy process, it is an essential opportunity to recognize the feelings and emotions addiction causes. Taking what may be an uncomfortable experience and learning how to avoid it moving forward is what rehab is about. Once the toxins of drugs and alcohol leave and the body begins to heal, people can truly focus on sobriety. 

The 3 Obstacles of Addiction that Benefit from CBT  

Cognitive behavioral therapists work to help addicts understand that addictive thoughts lead to addictive action. Because of this, CBT for substance abuse must work around 3 major hurdles to be effective for addiction rehab. The three major consistent obstacles observed in those with addictive thoughts and behaviors include: 

  1. Having or making false assumptions about themselves, or the feelings of others, leading to insecurity and encouraging substance use
  2. Inadequate availability or usage of skills that can improve thoughts of coping and maintaining positive moods or mindsets
  3. Lacking efficient means of communication between others and oneself; being unable to set boundaries to avoid substance abuse and relapse 

Despite age, gender, or life experience, working to overcome these behaviors is going to greatly contribute to recovery efforts. Rehab programs designed for seniors and young adults implement cognitive behavioral therapy sessions regularly as a necessary curriculum. Upon completion, CBT for substance abuse has excellent outcomes that lead to maintaining wellbeing, especially after rehab, for long-lasting sobriety. 

CBT for Substance Abuse Triggers

One misconception about rehab is that it’s solely about getting clean and sober. In reality, this is a major part of the process. However, it does not simply stop there. By incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy sessions into rehabilitation, a better ability to resist and cope with triggers emotionally reduces stress. Reducing stress while maintaining sobriety after active addiction tremendously improves a person’s quality of life moving forward. 

Triggers and urges are a big part of why addiction was able to develop in the first place. Part of an effective relapse prevention plan is using the lessons learned during CBT for substance abuse when encountering triggers. Three takeaways from the program in order to deal with triggers include: 

  1. Identifying 
  2. Diverting
  3. Coping

When encountering one or more triggers unexpectedly, using the 3-step approach developed within CBT will support ongoing sobriety. 

Identify: Recognizing the Trigger

The first thought to be aware of that is practiced during CBT for substance abuse is to simply acknowledge it. Recognize and identify what the trigger is, and make a mental note of the feelings that arise with it. This is adding information to an existing relapse prevention plan. By becoming aware of the threat to sobriety, identifying the feelings associated over time can potentially break the connection. 

Diverting: Putting Distance Between Yourself and Triggers

Sometimes, a trigger holds more addiction driving temptation than individuals can resist if they remain in the environment. This can happen when a recovering individual encounters an acquaintance that is still an active drug user. It may also occur when simply thinking about the acquaintance. This can also happen when a person is in a certain location or where they once used alcohol or drugs.

It is now up to how well you utilize your relapse prevention plan and CBT lessons. This may mean physically removing yourself away from whatever inspires thoughts of addiction, if possible and acceptable to do so. However, it could also mean reverting back to CBT lessons that promote changing addictive thoughts to sober ones, then reconsidering. 

Coping: Times When Leaving Isn’t an Option

While in recovery, learning to cope is necessary. There will be triggers that you may not see coming. Or, times when physically leaving a designated area is prohibited or has major consequences. During these times, it will be important to focus on maintaining positive and sober thoughts that were developed during CBT. 

CBT for substance abuse is valuable due to being able to practice it anywhere. Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions serve to teach each individual about how their own personal feelings affect their lives and behaviors. Applying CBT techniques and coping mechanisms daily will only lead to continuous healing. 

Rehab’s Approach Using CBT for Substance Abuse

Applying cognitive behavioral therapy to programs within rehab requires a complete approach. To benefit from the program addicts must use this opportunity to learn several techniques to be applied to their recovery. Ensuring that each person receives the care required to face addiction, exposure to different techniques can be applied when necessary.

During residential treatment, individuals working toward their recovery will have the opportunity to develop these techniques. Inpatient rehab provides a safe space to reside (free from triggers) while trying out different coping skills. The lessons and therapy available during residential rehab programs equipped with CBT gives individuals time to adjust to sobriety. 

Working with therapists and counselors while inhouse, provides time to focus on making necessary emotional and active change. Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions during residential treatment include approaching addiction by:

Noting and Recording Thoughts and Feelings

Becoming aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise, allow a person to tune into their automatic emotional reactions. These emotions or internal dialogues can be unknowingly critical, damaging self-esteem. The idea is to work toward amending negative or cynical thoughts, creating balance and realistic outlooks. 

Examining Behaviors that Prompt Responses

By taking a closer look at the motivators behind behaviors, it is easier to understand what causes a reaction. A person who becomes aware of what motivates them can utilize this tool steering away from active addiction. For example, some addicts respond to constructive criticism, others, to being praised and rewarded. 

Recalling and Facing Memories

It is a normal cognitive function to correlate certain feelings with memories. The memories may have been from a physical or visual experience. But they may also be associated with sound, taste, light, or smell. In cases where impulsive thoughts arise that lead to anxiousness or depressed mood, conditioning can be applied. By increasing exposure in a controlled and safe location, new associations can be made, while eventually disconnecting previously uncomfortable sensations. 

Planning a Fulfilling Schedule

Within this technique, the goal is to arrange activities that encourage an overall proactive and sober premeditated experience. These activities are recommended to be fairly simple to perform, yet to inspire a refreshing mindset. By having a line-up of enjoyable pastimes to participate in, helps to diminish negative feelings and emotions that occur compulsively.

Traditional Psychotherapy vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

The goal of all therapy designed for substance abuse is very much the same within each program’s expectations. This is to develop a positive and healthy relationship with oneself and with others around them. 

Other types of therapy are often used in rehab to reinforce cognitive behavioral therapy sessions over time. However, when used alone, other psychotherapies tend to rely on a much larger time frame to yield positive results. 

Classic psychotherapy includes approaches such as individual, family, or group therapies. They consist of examiners primarily listening and observing silently. Eventually, each patient will undergo their self-derived revelations. But without immediate feedback, this can take time to occur. By itself, traditional therapy holds the expectation to see psychological improvement of symptoms within years (as opposed to months). 

CBT for Substance Abuse is a Superior Program

Cognitive behavioral therapy is extremely effective and functions at a much faster rate. It integrates a therapist listening to concerns and recollections of experiences and thoughts while providing suggestive action upon acknowledgment. CBT for substance abuse is a more action-based, result orientated therapy, as opposed to a designated passive time of simply observing. 

During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, individuals work personally with a licensed therapist that will suggest coping techniques immediately. Essentially, this is an expedited style of psychotherapy, proved effective during short stays at rehab. 

For those that partake in their rehabilitation for longer durations, it allows more time to focus recovery attention elsewhere. There are many aspects of recovery that require attention. Allowing more time for lessons and family therapy is important to leading a healthy, happy, and sober lifestyle after rehab. 

Working together, recovering addicts and their therapist progresses throughout the standard 16 meetings, proactively making sober changes in each session. Utilizing CBT within substance abuse treatment is a unique opportunity to consider adding to rehabilitation for effectiveness.

Enrolling in Rehab for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Getting a handle on addiction may seem scary or even hopeless. However, taking the opportunity to get familiar with inner emotions and feelings can offer many benefits for getting sober. Drug and alcohol treatment that reinforces the importance of getting sober, and being able to maintain it, are life-changing.

Take this opportunity to get started on your rehabilitation journey, while getting to know yourself best in the process. Don’t let negative thoughts and emotions hold you in place to suffer from addiction any longer. The healthy, motivated, and in-control sober version of yourself is waiting. Get the help you need for overcoming addiction now!