Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

Michelle Rosenker

October 30, 2019

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain. When the brain is repeatedly exposed to a substance, nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex work to send out two signals — that the user likes the substance and that the user wants the substance. As the use continues, behaviors associated with those signals form. This disease is characterized by a number of different behaviors, including compulsive drug seeking and continued use of drugs despite negative repercussions. Throughout the process of one’s active addiction, the brain is undergoing lasting change that can make it extremely difficult to stop using for good. This is why some people with substance use disorders never obtain sobriety or experience repetitive relapses.

Thankfully, addiction is a treatable disease. There exist dozens of treatment approaches that can address the many needs those with a substance use disorder can have. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of them and is highly regarded for helping produce life-changing results. 

cbt helps you identify what influences your thoughts

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals identify and alter the thoughts and beliefs that are influencing their emotions and subsequent behaviors. This therapeutic approach is highly successful in treating substance use disorders because of how much the disease progresses based on one’s behaviors. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is not a form of therapy that lasts for a long period of time. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy is so effective that a person typically only has to participate in sessions for a few weeks. During those sessions, a therapist will work with the patient to help identify the connection between his/her attitude and behaviors. Once that groundwork has been laid, the therapist will develop a plan to address the faulty connections to build stronger, more effective ways of behaving and functioning. This plan will include specific steps to take, as well as the establishment of attainable goals. 

When a patient completes cognitive behavioral therapy, he/she has the skill set needed to recognize and eliminate harmful patterns of thinking and believing. This skill can help individuals to manage their behaviors in a more positive way rather than turning to the use of drugs to cope. 

Elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There are two key elements in cognitive behavioral therapy — cognitive restructuring and behavioral activation. Each element is designed to help the patient change the behaviors that contribute to his/ her continued abuse of drugs.

Cognitive restructuring 

Cognitive restructuring is the act of restructuring a patient’s thoughts and beliefs to reflect the behaviors they want to develop. In order to participate in this restructuring, a patient will have to identify the negative thoughts and beliefs that fuel his/her substance use disorder. This where the therapist comes in. He/she will help the patient to figure out what those thoughts and beliefs are so that they can be modified (or “restructured”) for the better. For example, a patient might think and believe that he/she is not important, which leads to perpetual use. When the patient thinks and believes that he/she is important, cognitive restructuring has been achieved.

Behavioral activation

When a patient has restructured his/her thoughts and beliefs and done so effectively, it is time to activate the new, healthy behaviors. The therapist will work with the patient to help him/her apply the new behavioral patterns to everyday circumstances. If done correctly, the behavioral activation will launch the patient into having a strong set of working skills to rely on. 

cbt helps you take back control of your life


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dual Diagnosis

Nearly half of all people with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. This is known as a dual diagnosis, and those who have it require a specialized approach that treats both conditions simultaneously. While there are many modalities used to treat a dual diagnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy is by far one of the most effective. 

Having a dual diagnosis often causes people to have several deeply rooted patterns of behavior that encourage their substance use disorder. For example, someone who struggles with anxiety can turn to the abuse of drugs in an effort to stop feelings of overwhelming doom, panic, and fear. The two conditions play right into one another, and the behaviors surrounding their functioning are what need to change in order for recovery to begin. So, when patients with a dual diagnosis receive cognitive behavioral therapy, they examine how the thoughts and beliefs tied to both conditions impact their overall behavior. So, someone with anxiety and a substance use disorder can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy by restructuring those behaviors. As a result, both conditions can be managed in a healthy way. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective in treating substance use disorders (including those involving opioids, prescription drugs, and sedatives) as well as several mental illnesses. People who have conditions ranging from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression to borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia can benefit from this specific therapeutic approach.

Do You Need Help? Call JourneyPure Melbourne Today.

Having a substance use disorder does not make you a bad person. It does not mean that something is wrong with you. What it does mean is that you may need help learning how to manage your substance use disorder so that your active drug use no longer occurs. At JourneyPure Melbourne, we can help you make that a reality. 

So, do not waste one more second. The longer that you continue to abuse drugs and/or live in your mental illness without treatment, the more likely you are to suffer irreversible consequences. The best part about getting the help you need is knowing that you do not need to do it alone. We are here for you.

If you are addicted to drugs, call us right now. A better future is right at your fingertips. JourneyPure Melbourne can help.