Why Do Experts Use CBT for Drug Addiction?

When you make the decision to recover from drug addiction, you’ll go through two main processes to rehabilitate your life: detox and therapy. During detox, you’ll get rid of any drugs in your system. In therapy, you start to uncover the reasons why you started using drugs in the first place. Although there are many different types of behavioral therapies available to treat substance use challenges, most addiction recovery experts use cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a specific type of talk therapy, a form of psychotherapy. The focus of CBT is to help you identify and change destructive, disturbing, and harmful thought patterns. CBT maintains the core belief that what you think (cognitive) influences how you behave (behavioral).

Cognitive behavioral therapy is also based on the belief that:

  • Unhelpful or harmful ways of thinking can cause psychological problems.
  • Destructive behavior patterns may provoke psychological challenges.
  • People living with or suffering from psychological troubles can learn better ways to cope with difficulties. When they do, they may see improvements in their symptoms and start to show healthier behavior patterns.

How Does CBT Therapy Work?

The ultimate goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to change negative thoughts into healthier, constructive thoughts. When you’re able to do this, you’ll likely notice positive changes in your emotions and behavior. CBT accomplishes this goal by helping you develop a wide range of strategies to combat and overcome negative thoughts.

When you engage in cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn to resist harmful thoughts and keep them at bay by:

  • Journaling
  • Brainstorming solutions
  • Writing positive self-statements
  • Restructuring or reframing negative ideas
  • Learning to face your fears instead of avoiding them
  • Role-playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others
  • Learning to calm your mind and relax your body with stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation
  • Intentionally distracting yourself with scheduled pleasant activities

Therapeutic approaches to drug addiction that incorporate CBT include:

  • Cognitive therapy, which focuses on identifying and changing inaccurate thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy, which addresses thoughts and behavior patterns by emphasizing the regulation of emotions, practicing mindfulness, and learning to accept pain.
  • Multimodal therapy, which suggests therapists treat psychological issues by addressing several different but interconnected systems: your actions, feelings, senses, imagination, thinking, social factors, and physical health.
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy, which focuses on identifying irrational beliefs and learning to recognize and change those thought patterns.

The Benefits of CBT For Treating Addiction

Behavioral health experts use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorders because CBT effectively addresses troubling thought patterns that lead to addictive behavior in a short amount of time.

CBT Doesn’t Take Long to Be Effective

man in cbt therapy for addictionMost drug rehab programs are 30, 60, or 90 days long. That’s not a lot of time. When you’re ready to overcome substance use challenges, you need to detox, uncover why you began using substances in the first place, change your habits, and start to rebuild your life. To do that successfully, therapists need to rely on treatment options that can provide positive long-term changes in a short amount of time.

Unlike other types of therapy that can take years to provide positive change, CBT is a short-term therapeutic treatment option. A full CBT cycle usually involves 10 to 20 sessions. But cognitive behavioral therapy is more than a quick-fix way to treat substance use challenges, it’s effective, too.

  • One study showed that 60% of people with a cocaine dependency had clean toxicology tests 52 weeks after completing cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • In addition to that, CBT is believed to be 50% to 75% effective for overcoming depression and anxiety after 8 to 15 sessions.
  • Another study revealed that 43% of people who received CBT reported a 50% reduction in symptoms of depression after multiple years of therapy.

Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders increase the likelihood of substance use challenges. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that people who have been diagnosed with mental illness consume 69% of the nation’s alcohol and 84% of cocaine in America. By treating anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders with minimal sessions, behavioral experts can help more people recover from drug addiction and achieve long-term sobriety.

CBT Helps Change False Beliefs, Insecurities, & Patterns of Behavior

woman in cbt therapy sessionExperts also use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat drug addiction because the practice helps dispel false beliefs and ideologies that can feed insecurity and low self-esteem. A 2019 study confirmed a link between insecure attachment and substance use disorders.

The research further revealed that people who are afraid of being too close to or too distant from others (fearful-avoidant attachment) may be at a greater risk of heroin addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help people with addiction challenges overcome and restructure thought patterns and harmful beliefs.

In CBT, you work with a counselor or therapist to solve problems and come up with healthy solutions. For example, you may harbor the thought that you’re alone. That thought can lead you to feel sadness, frustration, boredom, anger, jealousy, anxiety, or embarrassment. Those emotions may provoke you to drink or misuse drugs.

CBT can help you change this pattern by altering the way you think about the situation. Instead of holding on to the belief that you’re alone, you can instead believe a thought like, “There are several ways I can meet new people,” or “I can find likeminded people at local sober events.” This thought may make you feel inspired, hopeful, excited, and happy. With healthier emotions in place, you’re more likely to seek out sober events in your area or reach out to your recovery and sobriety community to connect with others. As you learn to reframe your thoughts and create healthier solutions for yourself, you can help boost your confidence and self-esteem.

CBT Skills Are Useful for Everyday Life

therapist holding patient's handAddiction recovery therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy because it can help you learn skills that are useful for everyday life. Leaving rehabilitation and reentering daily life can be overwhelming and stressful. But in CBT, you learn how to deal with challenging and stressful situations in a healthy way. After completing CBT, you’ll know how to:

  • Communicate your worries and fears without shame
  • Manage anger
  • Journal and record your thought processes
  • Reframe negative situations and create positive solutions
  • Meditate and practice mindfulness
  • Resolve conflict in your mind and with others
  • Schedule pleasant activities that boost your emotional, mental, and social wellbeing
  • Breathe deeply when you need to relax

All of these skills can help you deal with stress in a way that maintains your mental health, which, in turn, lessens your risk of relapse. Every opportunity you take to train your mind and emotions to respond to challenging situations in a positive way is a step toward long-term sobriety.

Thoughtful & Holistic Therapeutic Treatment To Help You Recover

Cognitive behavioral therapy can change your life by changing the way you think. Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we have made it our mission to help you put your best foot forward as you recover from substance use disorders. We do that by providing you with comprehensive programs and holistic treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy.

You don’t have to continue to live with harmful thoughts that make you feel like you need to use substances to feel better. We can help. Contact us today if you or a loved one are dealing with addiction challenges.

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