CBT for Substance Use Disorders

woman at beach thinking about cognitive behavioral therapy for addictionCognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is the most commonly used evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders including addictions to drugs, alcohol, and pain medication. CBT is a talking therapy, designed to help modify behaviors and thought patterns that lead to substance use and relapse so that you no longer feel the need to use substances as an escape. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs are used at our facilities in Laguna Beach, CA to work through these behavior patterns. Learn more about our Laguna Beach, CA addiction treatment therapy programs.

Many rehabilitation clinics now use CBT as part of their initial short-term treatment for many types of substance use disorders. CBT is used by licensed addiction therapists to identify harmful behavior and thought patterns, which drive people to use and towards relapse so that they can work on correcting those behaviors and helping patients to stay clean or sober.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Most people suffering from substance dependence struggle with destructive behavior patterns, negative thinking, and sometimes comorbid disorders such as anxiety or depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you to work through these issues to change thinking patterns and therefore the behavior that your thinking creates.

Cognitive behavioral therapy was developed during the late 1980s and early 90s, blending techniques from cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy to create a new method that tackled both behaviors and thought patterns. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a particular kind of CBT, was developed at approximately the same time. Learn more about the Laguna Beach, CA dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program.

The therapy is designed around the idea that developing harmful behavior patterns like substance abuse requires a learning process, which can then be unlearned.

CBT helps you to identify and correct problematic behavior leading to substance abuse by recognizing where it comes from and working to replace it with a new, healthier skill.

In most cases, CBT can also tackle the wide range of mental disorders that often co-cur with substance use disorders.

CBT is divided into two key components: Skills Training and Functional Analysis.

Skills Training

In skills training, the therapist will lead you through developing skills to improve your life alongside the motivation to develop these skills. This can include unlearning old habits and thought patterns and replacing them with new, healthier skills. Because many people use substances as a coping mechanism for stress, trauma, or abuse, Cognitive behavioral therapy is very helpful in building skills to help you develop healthy coping mechanisms. CBT is also useful if you have been surrounded with substance abuse for so long that you no longer know how to cope without it, and for helping you to rebuild personal and mental strategies that were torn down through substance abuse.

Functional Analysis

It involves working together with a therapist to identify circumstances, thoughts, and feelings that trigger substance use. In most cases, you will examine the emotions before, during substance use, and after use, so that you can better understand what influences your choices and why you might choose to use, even if you don’t intend to. Functional analysis is critical to the early stages of CBT, because it helps you to identify triggers, helps you develop insight into why you are using, and helps you to learn more about your triggers and what is likely to cause you to use.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence based therapy designed to prevent relapse, and has been adapted specifically for alcohol, cocaine, opioids, heroin, and many other addictive substances. Because it focuses on helping individuals to recognize and learn to correct the behavior and thought patterns behind their continued substance use, it is effective, even after the therapy is over.

CBT helps you to change your thought patterns, so that you can move past the cognitive issues that typically enable relapse.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you to tackle problematic thought patterns like the following:

  • Black and White Thinking – “I slipped up so I’m an addict again”, “I’m an addict so I’ll always be an addict”
  • Overgeneralization – “She’s mad at me so everyone hates me”, “I’m unhappy now so I’ll always be unhappy,” “Life is always bad”
  • Negative Thinking – “I’ll never make it” “I’m not strong enough”
  • Negative Approaches to Positives – “I’m only doing well now”, “I’ll relapse as soon as I leave therapy”

Benefits of CBT

CBT is a research based therapy designed to help prevent relapse after you have already gone through detox. It has several benefits including:

  • CBT is evidence-based. Multiple studies prove that CBT is effective at reducing short and long-term relapse.
  • You develop a relationship with your therapist to work towards your own goals.
  • You actively work to identify triggers so you can build coping mechanisms.
  • CBT explores your behavior so that you understand the thought patterns that lead to destructive behavior.
  • CBT helps you to develop skills you can use for the rest of your life.
  • CBT helps you to develop coping strategies for stress and other triggers, which you can use to improve all areas of your life and mental health.
  • CBT functions as a support network for the long-term.
  • CBT focuses on building you up so that you can avoid negative thought patterns that lead to destructive behavior.
  • CBT helps you to become more aware of yourself so that you can resist peer pressure and social cues to use or drink.
  • It’s flexible and you can take it in inpatient or outpatient programs.

Features of CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is different from many other types of substance abuse therapy in several ways:

  • Short Term – While most types of substance abuse therapy are ongoing, CBT is short-term and typically only lasts 30-90 days. In some cases, you may have longer therapy, but this is unlikely.
  • It Takes Effort – CBT requires you to actively work to improve, to create goals, and to communicate what you want to your therapist. The therapist does not create goals for you, because they rely on you to have personal motivation to achieve them.
  • It’s Based on the Learning Process – CBT is based on cognitive therapy, which involves learning and unlearning thought processes. CBT helps you to unlearn emotional and behavioral responses and helps you to learn healthier ones, which can help you long after the therapy is complete.

Unlike most types of addiction treatment, cognitive behavior therapy focuses on you and not on your drug use, identifying your problems and your triggers, so that you can move forward.

What is CBT for Addiction Treatment Like?

Most CBT is offered through a rehabilitation clinic and should involve 12-16 sessions over a 12-week period. In most cases, sessions will be held for 45-90 minutes but might be group, individual, or mixed. In some cases, your counselor may decide to offer intensive therapy with longer sessions.

During the CBT sessions at the addiction treatment program at Oceanfront Recovery in California, you are paired with a therapist who will begin functional analysis using a series of questions. They will ask about how you use substances, what they do for you, how you feel before and after taking them, the emotions you feel before using, and will use your answers to explore the reasoning behind your substance use. They will use your answers to determine what you need, and what you are looking for, which they will use to help you develop goals for self development, empowerment, and skill development.

Because every CBT session is unique and is based entirely on what you need or talk about, every person receives a different treatment. However, it does require you to talk honestly about your problems, to work with the therapist, and to want to stay clean or sober.

How Effective is CBT for Addiction Treatment?

CBT is intended to help you prevent a relapse after going through detox. It is not effective if you are still using or drinking. However, CBT has been shown to be effective for short and long term treatment, with higher efficacy over the long term than comparable treatments like contingency management. In one study, 60% of patients who followed a CBT course had clean toxicology reports during a 52-week follow up, compared to an average rate of just 21% for patients who did not follow through with therapy of any kind. CBT is also highly effective in treating co-curing disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Call 877.279.1777 to discuss Cognitive behavioral therapy as part of your addiction treatment plan.