Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy for Addiction: Separating Fact from Fiction

June 12, 2019 - Addiction Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Mike Iwinski

Written By

If you’re looking into potential treatment options for alcoholism or drug addiction, it’s quite likely you’ll come across facilities that offer cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

So is cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction a good choice? And what exactly is CBT? This article will explore both of these questions so you can make a better-informed choice for yourself.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a type of talk-based therapy. During a CBT session, you’ll generally talk to a therapist in a one-on-one situation.

CBT is based on the psychological idea of behaviorism. This area of psychology is focused on how people’s behavior can be modified and controlled.

It’s also concerned with theories of cognition. This refers to how people feel, think, and understand the world. CBT tries to alter behavior and cognition by using both positive and negative reinforcement.

CBT helps you to deal with big problems such as drug addiction by helping you break them down into much smaller parts. It’ll help you to change any negative thought loops and patterns you’ve gotten yourself into.

Focus on the Present

Some types of therapy are more focused on dealing with the problems of your past. For example, they might focus on your relationship with your parents or on some traumatic event. CBT, on the other hand, focuses on solving the problems you’re facing here and now by modifying the way you think and feel.

CBT has been shown to be effective with a wide variety of mental and even physical health issues. For example, it can help people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can even help people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

When using CBT to treat addiction, the therapist will focus on trying to alter your mindset and therefore, your behavior. They’ll achieve this by giving you the psychological tools you need to resist drinking or taking drugs. For example, CBT might address dysfunctional belief systems.

There is a huge range of psychological issues that could contribute to drug or alcohol misuse. For instance, you might believe that you can’t be social without the use of alcohol. CBT can help you to accept that this is a dysfunctional belief and therefore, it’s completely untrue.

CBT can also help you to unpack and examine permission-giving behavior that you might use to justify your drug use. For example, you might say that you’ll inject heroin this one last time and then you’ll get treatment. If you say this to yourself on a weekly basis, it’s obviously not true.

CBT will help to rewire your brain into accepting that this is a dysfunctional and untrue belief.

Physical Cravings

CBT can even be used to reduce the physical cravings you feel for drugs or alcohol. When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re trapped in a psychological loop. Even when you recognize that you need to give up your addictions, it can sometimes be extremely difficult for you to do so.

CBT can give you the tools you need to see your behavior in a new light, plus it can help you to break out of the endless cycle of addiction. It’s important to note that CBT is not magic nor is it hypnotism. It’s only going to work if the person being treated is cooperative.

If someone genuinely doesn’t want to quit drugs or alcohol, CBT probably isn’t going to help them. However, if you’re prepared to put the effort in, CBT can help you to change your behavior and outlook on life.

Changing Your Thinking

Here is an example of how CBT therapy will help you to change your thinking. After 90 days of sobriety, you might think to yourself that you deserve a little break, so you’ll have a few drinks.

Of course, this is a lie you tell yourself. If you have those few drinks, it’ll quickly spiral out of control.

With CBT, instead of telling yourself something like that, you might think: I really deserve to keep my sobriety going after coming so far. It might sound pretty simple, but if you can change the way you think, it can do wonders for your health.

CBT can also help you if you need to resist pressure from external forces. For instance, many addicts might live around people who are going to try to get them to drink or use drugs with them. CBT can help you to internalize an appropriately assertive response to decline such requests.

More Than Just Addiction

The great thing about CBT is that it’s about so much more than just managing your addiction. CBT can give you strategies and techniques to use in your everyday life, even when you’re no longer being treated for drug addiction.

Another advantage of CBT is that it can be completed in a shorter space of time than other kinds of therapies. You also don’t necessarily need to see a therapist for it to be effective. You can do this kind of therapy using a book or an app on a smartphone or tablet.

There are, of course, a few downsides. CBT isn’t for everyone. If you have other mental health issues as well as addiction issues, CBT might not be appropriate.

Another issue that focuses on the present. This can be great for beating addiction, but it might not help you as much if you have serious issues surrounding your past, such as a traumatic event or an unhappy childhood.

Use CBT in Conjunction with a Rehab Program

In order for CBT to be most effective, you should do it as part of a rehab program. That way, you can not only have the psychological aspect of your addiction addressed, but you can also get help with the physical aspect of withdrawal.

For certain kinds of addictions, it’s essential that you withdraw in the presence of medical professionals. Generally, CBT is available in both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, so don’t hesitate to reach out and get cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction today.

For help getting into a rehab center, get in touch with us now.


Medical Reviewer:

Mike Iwinski: Mike Iwinski has a master’s in human services counseling and executive leadership and an undergraduate is in history with a minor in Ancient Greek and significant coursework in education and religion, giving him a diverse knowledge base to pull from when working with clients. Having worked as a case manager for clients struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse, as well as a counselor in both of those fields, Mike knows how to navigate systems and help his clients achieve their goals. Mike has worked with people struggling with all kinds of addictions and MH concerns, specifically with men struggling with sexual abuse, sexual addiction and habitual shame-based sexual behaviors. Utilizing both traditional and holistic modalities Mike seeks to meet clients where they are in their recovery. Mike practices aspects of CBT, DBT, ACT, somatic psychotherapy, sound healing, and engages clients utilizing the polyvagal theory.