CBT for Substance Abuse

December 3, 2023

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used in the addiction/recovery community. CBT, a psychological treatment, has proven to be an effective method for helping many mental health issues and diagnoses including:

The disease of addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a complex condition that affects your brain chemistry. Addiction also involves factors such as life experiences, genetics, and your environment.

Substance abuse disorder is characterized by the repeated use of drugs and/or alcohol despite the unmanageability it creates in your life.

Examples of unmanageability caused by substance use disorder include: 

Along with these is another type of unmanageability; the mental obsession. Once an addict stops using drugs and remains sober for some time, the mental obsession strikes, telling them “you can control it this time” or “one hit won’t hurt.”

Once an addict succumbs to this mental obsession they use drugs or alcohol and start the cycle of active addiction all over again. 

This faulty thinking is one of the characteristics that illustrate substance use disorder being a brain disease. 

CBT helps many people who have substance abuse disorder since one of its main aims is to positively change a persons’ thinking.

At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier habits and build a life in long term recovery.

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If you’re reading this, you or someone you know may be battling with substance abuse. To learn more about CBT for substance abuse — keep reading.

What is CBT?

CBT is a type of talk therapy that addresses your thinking. By addressing your thinking, your feelings and behaviors can be examined and changed for the better. In a one-on-one CBT session with a therapist, you will begin to discover unhealthy thinking patterns.

It can help you change your perception. For example, instead of thinking “I’m always a failure”, you can tell yourself “I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, but I can try to do better next time”

Unhealthy thinking is established over time and concentrates on the past. For example: Since you messed up a speech at work, you think you are terrible at speaking. CBT can help you focus more on the present.

As you start to drift into negative thinking, you can catch yourself in the present moment and do something about it.

CBT will help you get in touch with your core beliefs about yourself and show you how to change them. The technique used to do this is known as the ABC model.

Out of these three, the most important one is B. Changing your beliefs can lead to better decisions which then lead to better outcomes.

How CBT Can Help with Substance Abuse

CBT is a very effective treatment for addiction.. This is especially true when it comes to triggers. 

Here’s an example:

You were once a “weekend warrior” as they say. You drank alcohol and did cocaine on Friday and Saturday nights, rested on Sunday, and showed up to work on Monday. However, for the past 6 months, things have been different.

What seemed to be controlled using and drinking has gotten out of control. You use crystal meth and drink alcohol every day now. You’re about to lose your job, and you’re having trouble paying your rent every month.

You know that you need to save money for rent, but the compulsive to get high and drunk is so strong that it overrides any rational thinking. 

You keep acting on this compulsion because of beliefs:

You have these beliefs, and deep down they make you feel guilty and ashamed.

CBT would help you look at the rewards of changing your behavior. What good things would happen for you if you got sober? You would have a long list of things if you really thought hard and honestly about it.

This is how the ABC model applies to the above scenario:

The ABC model plainly shows you that your thinking is faulty.

The Benefits of CBT for Addiction

People with substance abuse issues often find it extremely difficult to be sober. Many emotions that were stuffed deep down inside finally come to the surface. It can be extremely overwhelming. A CBT therapist can give you techniques to walk through your emotions so you can process them efficiently. 

CBT techniques include:

CBT can help you as you are on your continued path of recovery. Many areas of your life can drastically improve such as:

CBT is just a piece of the puzzle for recovery. To get the most out of CBT, you should also utilize other things such as:

If you are interested in CBT therapy talk to a mental health professional. You’ll be glad you did.

IOP at ASIC Recovery

Are you looking for substance abuse treatment in Texas? 

At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a recovery supportive network in all aspects.

Click to learn more.

Cristal Clark, LPC-S, is the Medical Reviewer for ASIC Recovery Services. She reviews all website content for quality and medical accuracy. She is a master’s level Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and graduated from Liberty University in 2011. She has worked in the behavioral and mental health field for over 12 years and has a passion for helping others. She has been clinical director and CEO of a 200 plus bed facility, PHP, and IOP, with experience managing a team of counselors, individual/group/and family therapy, and coordinating continuum of care. Cristal is trained in EMDR and certified in non-violent intervention. She is a member of American Counseling Association and American Association of Christian Counselors.

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