Studies have found that on average 47% of adults have an addictive disorder in their lifetime. Addictive substances can include drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and any other substance that is used as a maladaptive coping mechanism.
Because addiction is so prevalent, a lot of research has been conducted on treatment and management techniques. One of the most effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a behavioral treatment that teaches former addicts new patterns of behavior by getting rid of negative thought patterns and replacing them with helpful, positive thoughts.
CBT is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression. Alone, it has almost 75% efficacy. When used in addiction treatment, the results are similarly positive.
If you or a loved one suffers from an addiction disorder, and you want to know more about CBT and its treatment goals, read on.
What Is CBT?
CBT is a form of talk therapy conducted by a psychologist. Its goal is not to treat the symptoms of a disorder, but to undercut the flawed thought processes that lead to that disorder in the first place. It accomplishes this by rewiring faulty ways of thinking and unhelpful behavior.
CBT has been used to effectively treat many conditions including:
- Marital problems;
- Eating disorders;
- and other mental illnesses.
For example, when viewed from the CBT perspective, the symptoms of an eating disorder don’t exist in a vacuum. An eating disorder is due to increased concern with weight and body size. This concern might be caused by low self-worth or perfectionism traits.
Low self-esteem and concern with weight can lead to the symptoms of binge eating, dieting, and self-induced vomiting. CBT aims to treat the condition at this source, rather than treating the symptoms directly. By treating the concern with weight, the symptoms will vanish too.
If a patient is no longer overly concerned with maintaining healthy body weight, they won’t need to resort to extreme dieting.
If you view addiction with this same lens, you can understand how a substance is a coping mechanism for an underlying problem. This could be anything from depression to low self-esteem. Whatever the issue is, CBT aims to treat the underlying thought patterns that led to substance abuse.
How Does CBT Work for Addiction?
A CBT session is usually a one-on-one treatment program but can also be conducted with family members or in a group setting. During a session, your therapist will start by gathering information about your background, your emotional state, any triggers, and a history of your disorder.
This will help your therapist find the best way to help you. This research-based therapy will also help you understand yourself more clearly.
In the beginning, you might find it hard to open up about your feelings, but over time you will build trust with your therapist. When conducting therapy for beginners, your therapist will take the time to establish a rapport so you feel comfortable. Remember that your therapist is a confidential, judgment-free guide.
Then, a therapist will try to identify the situations in your life that lead to the addiction. This might be an underlying mental disorder, a traumatic event, or life stress. Whatever the cause, it must first be uncovered to treat it.
Once you’ve established your problems and your goals, your therapist will ask you about your thought processes. This is how they can help you identify negative, unhelpful, and incorrect thinking. Then you can begin to form new patterns of thinking, so you can change your negative beliefs.
CBT usually has a goal-oriented treatment plan, so you might have some homework to build on what you uncovered in your session. This can come in the form as a worksheet, reading, or other practice that can build new coping mechanisms and positive feelings.
CBT Goals for Addiction
There are no two cases of addiction that are exactly the same, so expect your therapist to curate your goals and therapy to your own specific needs. However, there are a few common therapy goals that assist in skills building for addiction-free living.
Understand and Manage Mental Illness
Many times, addicts refuse to seek treatment or relapse because they think they’re beyond help or that they’re alone in mental illness. This is an example of a flawed and inaccurate thought pattern that CBT can help you overcome.
One of the goals for CBT is to help you understand that you’re not alone in whatever your struggles are, and you can overcome them. In fact, over one-third of adults with substance use disorders also had a mental illness. It’s important to destigmatize mental health struggles and understand that you are not alone, and whatever your personal situations are, they can be overcome.
In some cases, CBT can treat mental illness without medications. In other cases, it can be used in conjunction with other therapies or medication to find a better balance.
Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation
In addition, CBT helps to teach you self-awareness of addictive behaviors. By understanding underlying disorders, flawed thought patterns, and triggers, you can effectively begin to manage them without the use of substances. For a simple example, if you usually start drinking when you feel lonely, CBT can help you rewire this instinct so instead, you reach out to friends or family when you feel lonely.
Many addicts report that they feel like they’re running on autopilot. Any negative emotion and they reach for their substance like a robot. With greater understanding and emotional regulation, you can learn how to avoid this feeling and redirect your addiction instincts.
If you can regulate your emotions and redirect them, you can manage them without the use of substances. This allows you to talk yourself down when you start to feel like you’re spiraling out of control.
Learn New Coping Strategies
One of the greatest benefits of therapy is learning new coping skills. If your substance addiction is a stress response, CBT will help you learn how to manage your stress without substances. You’ll learn new life skills including conflict resolution skills, communication skills, self-calming skills, and how to find balance in your life.
This also applies to triggers. You might have triggered feelings or situations that lead you to substance use without fail. CBT will teach you new ways to cope with these triggers that don’t involve substances.
After initial treatment, it’s encouraged to stick with regular CBT appointments. This will keep you accountable, and give you a resource if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by your daily life. Addicts who have long-term outpatient support are less likely to relapse than those who don’t.
Find Help for Your Addiction Today
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Wavelengths can help you. No one knows addicts like an addict, and our founder and former addict himself has a unique perspective on addiction treatment. CBT is just one tool in our toolbox of drug addiction treatment methods, so no matter what your struggles are, we can help you overcome them in a safe, supportive environment.
Reach out to us today to verify your benefits, compare treatment options, and make a plan for your recovery!