Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Addiction Treatment

If you have been struggling with an addiction or mental health problem and are about to enter a programme of rehabilitation, one of your treatments might be a talking therapy known as cognitive behavioural therapy.

What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy designed to help the patient change the way that he or she thinks and behaves. During CBT sessions, you will focus on your negative thoughts and behaviours and how these make you feel.

By examining the way that you currently think and do things, you can learn how to develop new alternatives to hopefully help you cope better with certain life situations.

CBT is typically designed as a short-term treatment approach and is not usually delivered for an extended period. It is likely that it will take place in hourly sessions over the course of several weeks. As part of an inpatient rehabilitation programme, for example, it may take place once or twice a week for the duration of the treatment programme.

Thankfully, CBT is not a quick fix; instead, it works through progress and you can feel the benefits develop over time. When it is used as part of a comprehensive recovery programme, it is effective in the treatment of various health problems. It has proven particularly effective where anxiety and depression are symptoms. Learning how to make CBT work for you on your return to independent sober living could help with relapse prevention and ensure the success of long-term recovery.

How Does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Work?

The idea behind CBT is that the way in which you feel can influence the things that you do. For example, if you have negative thoughts about a certain situation, you may then experience negative emotions, which could cause you to act in a negative manner.

CBT looks to help you address these negative thought processes and then learn how to challenge them by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable components. Then,

alongside your therapist, you will work on changing the way you feel about them.

When you learn how to change your behaviour in a positive way, you will improve the way that you feel, which will, in turn, lead you to act in a way that is better for you and for others.

The aim of CBT is to teach you coping skills for different types of problems. For example, if you are feeling anxious, your automatic response might be to avoid certain situations, but doing this could then increase your fears. With CBT, you will be taught that it is better to confront your fears and you might learn how to do this in a way that does not cause anxiety.

Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

During CBT sessions, you are likely to spend time one-on-one with a counsellor, where you will talk about things such as how you feel about yourself, others, and the world in general. You will also discuss how the things that you do affect your own feelings and relationships.

Breaking down the negative thought processes that you have into smaller parts usually begins by isolating a situation that you might find difficult. Once you have done this, you can then analyse the thoughts that this event or situation evokes. Following on from that, you go on to consider the emotions you might experience as well as any physical feelings you have because of it.

Together with your counsellor, you can then look at the things you would do as a result of these emotions and feelings. Analysing the pattern of thoughts and behaviours will then help you to see how these are connected and how you can go about challenging them.

An experienced counsellor will be able to help you see how and why certain feelings that you experience may be out of context for the situation. He or she will also be able to help you see how the way in which you react to these feelings could be causing you harm. CBT can be effectively used to help break the pattern of negative thinking and behaviour.

What Abuse/Addictions Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Used to Treat?

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Nicotine addiction

How Does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Help in Addiction Recovery?

Chemical substances like alcohol and drugs can impair thinking and most people who suffer from these types of addiction are often times chemically obstructed when it comes to seeing the real harm their behaviour does to both their lives and that of their loved ones.

It is hard to notice what actually the root of the problem is. If you or a loved one are experiencing this, then CBT is a good therapy to add to the treatment plan.

The goal of CBT in addiction treatment is to help you overcome the negative thoughts you have been having so that you can go on to learn how to change your behaviour. For the most part, it will be your negative thoughts that are causing you to seek solace in a specific substance or activity.

With CBT, you will explore your patterns of addictive behaviour to get to the root cause of it. In a therapeutic and non-confrontational environment, you can be as honest as you like without fear of judgement or recrimination.

Your counsellor will be able to help you see that the way in which you see certain things is unhelpful in terms of how it makes you act. You can learn how certain thoughts direct your actions and lead to harm. Once you have identified your negative thoughts, you can work on challenging them and seeing them for what they really are.

Negative thinking is a major cause of mental health problems, which can then be a trigger for substance abuse. By learning how to challenge the false beliefs and thinking that lead to your addictive behaviours, you can break the cycle of abuse that has held you in its grip for so long.

You will learn how to use certain self-help tools that will improve your mood. Techniques such as meditation and mindfulness will help you to cope when you are having negative thoughts. You may also learn how to communicate better with others, which will help you to avoid a relapse going forward.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques

There are several techniques used during CBT sessions. The techniques used for you and your particular situation will depend on the condition being treated and who is providing your CBT. The flexibility of CBT and the fact that there are so many different techniques are just some of the reasons why it is such a popular therapy in the treatment of addiction.

Although classed as a talking therapy, CBT is much more than that; during your sessions, you will work with your counsellor using a variety of techniques:

  • Thought records – Creating thought records will help you to examine your negative thoughts and what causes them. You will be encouraged to find evidence to either support or disprove these thoughts. The aim of this is to help you become more objective and to not always focus on the negative. Also referred to as ‘journaling’, you will be encouraged to gather information about your thoughts and moods. You can record when you have a negative thought or mood, as well as how intense the feeling or thought was. You should also record your response to this. With this information, you can then learn more about what causes your negative thought patterns.
  • Challenging cognitive distortion – Cognitive distortion is a common characteristic among those with mental health problems or addiction. Maybe you find yourself dwelling on the negatives or looking at negative situations as a never-ending pattern and you dislike it. This kind of thinking can lead you to act without planning and acknowledging dangers. Challenging distorted thinking is a common technique used in CBT, and it aims to help you take control away from the condition and back into your own hands.
  • Cognitive restructuring – Once you have learned how to challenge your distorted thinking, you can work on learning how to change it. You will learn how to break down your thoughts and to then think in a clearer and more rational manner. This will help you to look at situations in a different, more positive way rather than acting negatively without thinking.
  • Behavioural experiments – By comparing your negative thoughts with positive ones, you will be able to examine which ones are more effective in helping you to change your behaviour. The idea behind this technique is to see whether you will respond better to self-criticism or self-kindness.
  • Imagination based exposure – During CBT sessions, you might be asked to think about a painful memory. It could be this memory that has led to your addictive behaviour. By examining everything that you can remember about this event on a regular basis, you might learn to become less anxious about it and to see it as less threatening or painful. Over time, your response to this memory will be less harmful, achieving an overall improvement of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Interoceptive exposure – The aim of this technique is that you would be exposed to sensations that you fear. It is generally used for the treatment of anxiety. When you are exposed to the sensations that you fear, you are likely to become anxious and your unhelpful beliefs can be identified. By allowing these sensations to be maintained without interruption or distraction, you can learn that while they may be uncomfortable, they are not necessarily dangerous.

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Differs from Other Psychotherapies?

CBT differs from other psychotherapies in that it focuses on how thoughts can affect actions. The main difference between CBT and other therapies is that instead of just talking and focusing on past feelings and emotions, CBT employs an educational and active approach that focuses on learning how to seek solutions and change behaviour.

CBT is a goal-orientated therapy and you will work with your counsellor to find ways of changing your behaviour in a positive manner. CBT aims to teach you how to stop thinking about certain situations in a negative way and to look for the positives. Instead of viewing a particular event as a negative reflection of your own self-worth, you will learn how to look at it as a positive learning experience and you will then be able to deal with it in a positive manner.

CBT is not about examining your past or accessing your unconscious. It is about focusing on the present and the things you are experiencing on a day to day basis.

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Treats Include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder

Other Supplemental Therapies:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • 12-step therapy
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Fitness therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Yoga
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Meditation
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