In America today, it is estimated that nearly 20.8 million of our citizens, aged 12 or older, are grappling with a substance use disorder (SUD). Among those individuals, 15.6 million of them are struggling with an alcohol use disorder, and 7.7 million are living with an illicit drug disorder. Considering the widespread and ever-growing opioid crisis and other major drug problems that stretch from sea to sea across our nation, there needs to be a more significant push than ever to get individuals battling with addiction the drug rehabilitation treatment they so desperately need and stop the drug epidemic from claiming thousands of more American citizens’ lives. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to be very beneficial to addicts in professional treatment programs today.

We need therapies that not only address and handle the physical aspects of recovering from substance use disorders but also discusses the, possibly, even more vital, mental aspects of addiction recovery. Addiction doesn’t end, or start for that matter, with only the physical body. There are usually substantial psychological obstacles and behavioral changes that need to take place as well for recovery to stable and relapse a thing of the past. That is where cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) comes into play. CBT techniques for addiction can be some of the most beneficial and create long-lasting sobriety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy used to guide and help people work through a wide variety of mental health issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Psychotherapy is defined as the treatment of psychological disorders by treating the mental and emotional state of an individual, rather than treating them with medical means. This type of treatment therapy has been used for decades in cooperation with more traditional treatments to help those battling addiction change individual perceptions and behaviors that are associated with substance abuse, allowing those individuals to move on to healthier, sober lives.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction

CBT helps individuals with substance abuse and addiction disorders recognize, gain a comprehensive understanding of, and change specific behaviors that are related to their unique, individual issues. When this highly structured therapy is applied to individuals with substance use disorder, they can gain the knowledge and skills that are necessary to improve their quality of life.

CBT helps addicts pinpoint triggers, which are events or circumstances that lead individuals to abuse drugs, and also helps them gain control over their physical cravings and spot situations that may be high-risk. With this therapy, addicts focus on current problems in the individual’s life, not past issues and as a result, the person in recovery learns social and communication skills, how to relax, and they are active participants during the entire therapy process.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy addresses a broad range of issues. Research has also shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to treat not only many individual problems such as:

  • Difficulties dealing with a mental illness.
  • Problems with managing emotion.
  • Difficulty handling stressful situations in life.
  • Interpersonal conflicts, such as in relationships.
  • Trouble dealing with losses, such as that from a divorce or death.

But it can also help with many different medical conditions such as:

  • Substance use disorders.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Various phobias.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Eating disorders.
  • Sexual Addiction.
  • Bipolar disorder.

How does cognitive behavioral therapy apply to real life?

Constructive and positive communication between the therapist an client is a primary factor, it enables individuals with substance use disorders to end the merry-go-round of negative and non-survival thoughts and encourage positivity and well-being. The therapist and client work as a team, and together they reveal the underlying problems and develop the best solutions to beat addiction and overcome previous non-survival actions and behaviors. The individual is involved in every step, allowing them to be the causative factor in their recovery process.

With this form of therapy clients struggling with substance abuse can keep records of their appointments, read written works regarding substance abuse, and some even take home and complete homework assignments that are related to what they were taught during their therapy session.

Dr. Peggilee Wupperman, an associate professor in the department of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York said, ” They apply these lessons to their daily life by completing home practice.” She also said, “[Therapists’] give clients home practice to monitor emotions and thoughts. When they realize they’re having [urges], they can use the practices discussed in the session.”

Some CBT techniques for substance abuse include:

  • Learning how to identify problematic life situations. Things like addiction can harmfully affect an individual’s mental well-being and in some cases can create life-damaging psychological illness. Therapists and clients work together to identify these issues.
  • Then individuals with a substance use disorder are encouraged to share their thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that are related to their issue. Later they learn how to recognize and evaluate their feelings, emotions, and thoughts about themselves, other people in their lives and their circumstances. Some therapists even urge their clients to keep a journal where they can lay out their ideas as they happen.
  • Another essential step along the user’s path to recovery is also being to identify negative or inaccurate thoughts. This enables the user to understand better patterns of thinking they could have caused or contributed to their issues. When an individual focuses on their physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to situations, it can aid them in managing their disorders.
  • And finally, those struggling with substance abuse learn how to reshape harmful or inaccurate ways of thinking. Therapists sometimes will ask their clients ‘Is your view of a situation based on facts or inaccurate perceptions?’. Creating a pattern of positive thinking and can be a hard habit to develop, but it also paves the way to a happier and more positive view and perception of life.

CBT is a short-term treatment option, usually encompassing about 10 to 20 sessions in total. The length of the therapy is based on the type and severity of the disorder, the levels of stress the client may be under and whether or not actual improvements have taken place. There are many success stories from individuals who have utilized cognitive behavioral therapy to change their lives. They go through the treatment and come out of it with a different, more positive and healthy view of not only life but themselves, proving that they don’t need a vice or illicit substance to handle their lives and be happy. Changes such as those achieved in CBT lead to long-lasting and stable recovery and sobriety.

“This place believed in me, gave me a chance when I had nowhere else to turn, gave me my life back, treated me with respect and taught me that I was worth it. Thanks to the inpatient program, I was able to find myself again and learn how to live clean and sober. Thanks to the IOP and sober living program, I was able to obtain life skills and focus on my recovery until I was able to secure a job and move out on my own. All because they believed in me. I cannot say enough about the place that helped save my life and gave me a chance to enjoy life again. – Jesten

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