CBT therapy for addiction treatment

CBT therapy for addiction treatment

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavioral therapy is a compelling psychological treatment method for various issues, including:1

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol and drug use problems
  • Marital problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Severe mental illness

Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life. Many studies show CBT is as effective, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.1

What does Cognitive Mean?

The word cognitive refers to conscious brain activity.2 Cognition is the mental process or action acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and senses.

Aaron Beck and the Creation of CBT

Aaron Temkin Beck, MD., born in 1921, is an American Professor and Psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the father of cognitive therapy. His methods and theories are widely practiced to treat clinical depression.3 He is the President Emeritus of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and the Honorary President of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, which certifies qualified cognitive therapists.3

In 1997, Beck developed critical cognitive behavioral therapy ideas, such as disorders that lead to distorted thinking. He then followed up by explaining how distorted thinking has adverse effects on human behavior.

What are the Types of CBT?

There are numerous ways to implement CBT therapy treatment and there are various types of CBT therapy.4

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy centers on identifying and changing inaccurate or distorted thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) addresses thoughts and behaviors while incorporating emotional regulation and mindfulness strategies.

Multimodel Therapy

Multimodal therapy suggests that you must treat psychological issues by addressing seven different but interconnected modalities:

  • Behavior
  • Affect
  • Sensation
  • Imagery
  • Cognition
  • Interpersonal factors
  • Drug/biological considerations

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) involves identifying irrational beliefs, actively challenging these beliefs, and finally learning to recognize and change these thought patterns.


Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT and cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT both target the cognitive process. However, CBT vs. DBT differs in that DBT incorporates regulation and mindfulness strategies over identifying and changing. DBT is similar to set limits for oneself over acknowledging and evolving.

CBT Techniques

Cognitive behavior therapy aims to give a different way of thinking that will modify actions. This connection of thought and action is the purpose of using both cognitive and behavioral methods and techniques.

Negative Thoughts

This technique allows you to identify how thoughts, feelings, and situations contribute to dysfunctional behaviors.4 Though this method is challenging; it leads to self-discovery and insight that plays a significant role in the treatment process.

New Skills

Learning and practicing new skills useful in a realistic society is of great benefit to learn how to cope and socialize to avoid the possibility of a relapse.


Goal setting is a significant component to recovery from mental illness.4 During CBT, a therapist can help with goal-setting skills by teaching you how to identify your goal, distinguish between short- and long-term goals, set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based). Goal setting focuses on the process as much as the end outcome.

Problem Solving

Developing problem-solving skills helps identify and solve problems that arise from life stressors, both big and small, and reduce the negative impact of psychological and physical illness.4


Self-monitoring includes tracking behaviors associated with thoughts or feelings. Also known as diary work, self-monitoring is an important part of CBT that involves tracking behaviors, symptoms, or experiences over time and sharing them with your therapist.4

Addiction Treatment with CBT Therapy Principles and Methods

According to the cognitive behavioral therapy approach, various addictive behaviors and excessive harm can come from negative thoughts and subsequent negative feelings. When CBT is used to treat addiction, CBT targets the systemically recording thoughts, associated feelings, and the events that trigger those feelings.5

CBT for Drug and Alcohol Rehab

One of the most significant benefits that CBT Therapy provides with substance use disorders is long-term maintenance.6As there is always a risk of relapse or setbacks while in recovery from substance use disorders, therapists need to teach a new set of attitudes and skills on which you can rely on for the long run.

These attitudes and skills not only improve a sense of self-efficacy, but they also lead to a reduction in life stressors that might otherwise increase the risk of relapse.

For example, Learning how to delay and distract in response to cravings by engaging in constructive activities, writing (e.g., journaling), communicating with supportive others, going to meetings, and other positive means by which to ride out the wave of craving until it subsides.7

How is CBT Helpful for Addiction Treatment?

CBT Therapy is a leading long-term treatment solution for common mental health disorders.4According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Drug addiction manifests clinically as compulsive drug-seeking, drug use, and cravings that can persist and recur even after extended periods of abstinence.

From a psychological and neurological perspective, addiction is a disorder of altered cognition.8 CBT therapy is also a more cost-effective approach than the cost of continued medication.

CBT Therapy for Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis refers to having a diagnosis of a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously.9 It can range from someone developing mild depression because of binge drinking, to symptoms of bipolar disorder becoming more severe when that person abuses heroin during periods of mania.9CBT Therapy helps change ineffective thinking patterns and teaches how to cope.

CBT to Build Sober Living Skills

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors impact sober living.10 CBT is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion) and how we act (behavior) all interact together. Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior.” According to the CBT model, because all these elements interact with one another, coping and changing perspective via CBT therapy will increase sobriety’s long-term stability.


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