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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction and Substance Abuse

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is commonly used for depression and anxiety. However, it can also be used to help those who are suffering from addiction. If you are having trouble with substance abuse and are looking for a counselor, BetterHelp is a good place to start. CBT is most effective for substance use disorder when it is combined with other therapeutic methods. 

What is CBT and How Does it Help?

People who are struggling with substance use disorder often have negative thinking patterns. It is important to identify these negative patterns to alter thoughts and change behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help individuals address and manage these unhealthy and harmful thought patterns. Then, the individual can practice alternative emotional management methods and restructure their behavior.

It is common for an addict to self-treat negative thoughts. A therapist can help a person struggling with substance abuse issues avoid self-medication and identify and manage their thoughts and emotions. Then, the recovering individual can move on to healthier lifestyle choices. 

In addition, CBT can help a recovering addict deal with triggers. Triggers are situations, feelings, and places that can cause the addict to crave a substance. A therapist can help an addict identify their triggers. Then, the person suffering from substance use disorder can do their best to avoid anything that may trigger a craving. However, it is impossible for an addict to avoid triggers for the rest of their life. Thus, it is important to use CBT to help the recovering addict address their feelings and cope with them in a healthy way. 

One important component of CBT for addiction is to help individuals unlearn old, unhealthy habits. Healthier habits can then replace these. Identifying the emotions related to substance abuse and addiction can be helpful so that addicts can identify the root of their substance use disorder. 

CBT Techniques for Substance Use Disorder

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapists have a plethora of possible methods and techniques to help someone suffering from substance use disorder

One method is to have recovering addicts address and examine their negative thoughts. Then, the goal is to search for objective reasons that support or contradict the thoughts. The therapist and the person recovering from substance use disorder will work together to identify these thoughts and compare and contrast the evidence for and against them. Then, the addict should be able to develop more balanced thought processes. 

Another technique is to use positive and/or negative thoughts to change behavior. Some individuals respond best with self-criticism. Others do better with self-kindness. A therapist will work with a client to discover the best thoughts to reach the person’s goals. For example, some people may do better with thoughts that are hard on them for having certain feelings or relapsing. Others may do best with thoughts of understanding. 

Another exercise revolves around memory and images. The therapist will guide the recovering addict through memories that produce strong negative feelings. Then, the addict will take note of every sense that they notice. Every sound, sight, thought, feeling, smell, and taste will be noted. Over time, the memories will cause less anxiety and other negative emotions. 

A final method is to make a list of activities. Many people who suffer from substance use disorder find that they get bored easily when they are not abusing drugs or alcohol. By making a list of fun, healthy, positive activities, an addict can easily break up their mundane daily routines. They can also help an individual avoid thoughts about substance abuse. 

Final Thoughts on CBT for Substance Use Disorder 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be an effective tool for substance use disorder. It can help someone manage their thought patterns and take an objective look at their decisions. It can also help individuals identify potential triggers and avoid relapse. Finally, it can help individuals improve self-control and develop coping techniques. 

Featured Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Marie Miguel

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.