Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) helps identify and cope with the challenges of recovery. CBT addresses negative, automatic thought patterns. Clients learn and practice alternative ways of thinking. They learn to cope with a wide range of problems associated with substance abuse.

Moving on from substance abuse is tough work. New strategies make treatment a little easier. You can learn to replace addictive behaviors.

What is CBT?

CBT was developed by Dr. Aaron Beck. It has been around since the 1960s. It is short-term therapy designed to achieve specific goals. It is flexible and adaptable. CBT is effective for groups or for one-on-one sessions.

CBT uses a hands-on, practical approach. The goal is learning to recognize situations that trigger substance abuse. Then clients learn ways to avoid these situations. It is used to treat many conditions. These include substance abuse and co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety.

In CBT there is an equal relationship between client and therapist. The therapist is more like a teacher or teammate. Client and therapist develop strategies and goals together. Clients take on more responsibility as therapy progresses.

Automatic Thoughts

CBT looks at patterns of destructive behavior and what directs this action. Dr. Beck suggested thinking patterns are learned in childhood. Eventually, these thoughts become automatic. People are often not even aware of them. Unfortunately, they are often based on self-doubt and fear. For example, a person makes a mistake at work. The person automatically thinks, “I’ve screwed up. I mess up everything.”

CBT emphasizes the importance of these automatic thoughts. Common automatic thought patterns include:

  • All or nothing. Seeing things as black or white.
  • Over-generalization. Viewing even one negative as a pattern of failure.
  • Negative filter. Focusing on only the negative.
  • Disqualifying positives. Positives don’t matter.
  • Jumping to conclusions. Assuming thoughts are true without evidence.

These automatic thoughts contribute to a sense of powerlessness. This can lead to self-medicating and substance abuse. They also cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Through CBT clients learn to identify these thoughts. CBT then helps clients correct these thought patterns.

Unique Features of CBT

CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy. It typically lasts five to 10 months. Clients attend one session per week. Sessions are an hour or less.

Sessions are structured. Clients take an active role in CBT. The client and therapist work together to determine the problem. They develop strategies and goals together. They work on how to deal with the problem. The procedures can then be used again and again.

Homework is a vital part of the process. This may include keeping a diary or taking specific actions to cope with a problem. During sessions, homework is reviewed and discussed. Then the client and therapist develop more strategies and goals. Clients take on more responsibility for assignments as therapy progresses.

CBT has a specific end date. This can be adjusted along the way, based on progress. The end date is chosen by both the client and therapist.

How It Works

CBT is both cognitive and behavioral. It uses thoughts and actions. There are a number of ways it works. Some are shared with other therapies; others are specific to CBT. These include:

  • Clients address specific problems.
  • CBT uses a problem-solving approach.
  • Homework is a vital part of the process.
  • CBT is practical, rather than insightful.

The main goals are to improve quality of life and increase the chance of further progress.

How Effective is CBT?

CBT may be considered treatment of substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.  The effects last longer and there is less chance of relapse.

CBT are believed to be clear-cut problems like addiction and mental disorder.

Benefits for CBT

As part of a personalized treatment program, CBT offers many advantages. These include:

  • Low risk. Learning new coping skills is not risky. Clients are partners in their change.
  • High reward. Clients use the strategies for working on life problems again and again.
  • Integrates with other therapies. CBT is flexible and adaptable. It works well in personalized treatment plans.
  • Short-term. CBT is active, hands-on and structured


CBT and Addiction Recovery

CBT can be considered a form of treatment. It works best when used in combination with other treatment services.

You can unlearn old drug- or alcohol-using behavior. By learning to identify automatic thought patterns, you develop alternative strategies. Motivation makes the difference. You are an important part of your treatment plan. As you progress, you take on a larger role in your recovery.