Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a common therapeutic model used to treat substance disorders, with a strong focus on treating underlying emotional and behavioral disorders. CBT works by modifying behaviors and thought patterns leading to both substance use and relapse, helping individuals to work their way through problems rather than using substances to cope with them. This makes CBT an ideal treatment for those with existing traumas or co-occurring disorders.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is designed to tackle destructive behavior patterns, as well as disorders such as anxiety and depression that often underlie substance use. First developed in the late 1980s, CBT blends techniques from both cognitive and behavioral therapy, based on the premise that unlearning harmful behavior patterns contributing to substance abuse requires recognizing where they come from and replacing them with new, healthier coping mechanisms.

Components of CBT

Functional Analysis – Here, the patient works with the therapist to identify the root causes underlying substance abuse. The therapist will walk the patient through the emotions they experience before and after using the addictive substance to work out why the patient began abusing a substance in the first place. This can be useful for recognizing and treating comorbid disorders.

Skills Training – Once the therapist identifies the problem, they can begin to address it by teaching the patient healthier coping mechanisms and thought pattern. CBT is designed around the same concepts as behavioral therapy, which retrains trauma patients to develop better coping mechanisms.

Recognizing the behaviors and thought patterns contributing to substance abuse helps give patients the tools to move past it. CBT helps the patient recognize these issues and then retrains the brain to avoid the negative thought patterns and emotions that lead to destructive behaviors.

CBT for Dual Diagnosis

Cognitive behavioral therapy is grounded in several types of therapy used for treating anxiety, depression, trauma, and other mental disorders which frequently overlap with addiction. The therapy model works to identify underlying issues and build coping mechanisms, making it especially useful for treating co-occurring disorders. By helping individuals to correct thought patterns and behavior and learn mental coping skills, CBT helps to treat both addiction and other mental disorders at the same time.

CBT helps individuals to understand the thoughts that lead to destructive behavior, and helps them build skills to cope with those problems in the short and long term. Because persons with co-occurring disorders recover most successfully when receiving treatment for both conditions at once, CBT is an ideal solution to address the needs of both addicts and those suffering from anxiety, trauma, and depression.

How Effective is CBT for Addiction Treatment?

CBT is administered in both short and long-term intervals, but typically in schedules of 30-90 days. Patients actively work to learn, improve, and build their own life goals. They also unlearn thought patterns and behavioral or emotional responses and learn new ones. Studies have shown it to greatly decrease the chances of relapse, with 60% of patients remaining sober after 52 weeks with CBT versus 21% who do not receive therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common and effective evidence-based treatments for addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, especially with a co-occurring disorder, CBT can help.