The reasons people begin to abuse drugs and alcohol are varied. They may want to improve or numb their feelings, perform better at school or work, or feel social pressure. While the reasons that lead to abuse are very individual, there are treatments that are known to be effective.
Seeking help for addiction is multi-faceted. It needs addressing the physical changes that occur in the body as a result of the addiction. The approach also needs to include supportive mental health services.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps to change the way individuals think and behave. It helps us to reframe life’s challenges and make different decisions.
CBT can help recovering addicts learn new, positive behaviors. This evidence-based practice is shown to have significant results for patients in recovery. It allows people to take control of their thoughts and actions.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on how we interpret life’s events. How we feel as a result often impacts behavior. It is a form of psychotherapy that looks at the impacts of a person’s beliefs and attitudes.
This is done based on the following underlying principles of CBT:
- If people think in unhealthy ways, it can lead to psychological issues.
- People can learn new ways of thinking and behaving.
- By forming new habits, people can be relieved of symptoms and act in better ways.
Working with a therapist, CBT helps individuals address specific present-day problems and challenges. It is goal-oriented and focuses on what tools the individual needs to be successful.
CBT is meant to be short-term. It can help people deal with relationships, cope with grief, and face other stressful situations. It can also reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
For treating addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy is effective. This is due to the fact that it is rapid, adaptable, and action-based. This makes it well-suited for both inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as individual counseling sessions.
What Can You Learn During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
During cognitive behavior therapy, a person works one-on-one with a therapist. The therapist will challenge underlying assumptions that may be wrong. This helps individuals develop a better awareness of their thoughts.
Sometimes people act on irrational thoughts or past experiences instead of facts. CBT techniques include helping the person distinguish between facts and feelings. It can help individuals stop over-generalizing or fearing the worst.
Sometimes individuals assign a lot of blame, either to themselves or others. CBT helps to realign that thinking. It focuses on how things are, rather than how it “should be,” and helps individuals face fears.
The goal of CBT is to learn to see a situation from a different perspective. Individuals think about the actions and motivations of others. Work is done to develop a more positive way of thinking.
Drug and alcohol addiction is often the result of how people are feeling. CBT can be an incredibly effective approach during recovery. The individual and therapist collaborate to establish attainable goals.
It helps individuals describe situations and how they feel as a result. CBT focuses on acceptance and understanding rather than judgment.
How Do You Learn New Strategies?
Cognitive behavior therapy is a very practical approach. Therapists use a lot of techniques in sessions. Individuals may find different strategies to be particularly useful for them.
Overall the goal is to help people learn new ways of thinking and behaving. A therapist might use a combination of any of the following:
Feedback During Discussions. This can guide the individual to identify certain thoughts or patterns of behavior.
Role-Playing Activities. By responding to different scenarios, individuals can learn how to react differently.
Techniques to Calm the Mind and Body. These may include breathing exercises or meditation apps. The goal is to help an individual achieve calm when anxious or stressed.
Homework Assignments. Therapists sometimes give homework! This may include worksheets, artistic assignments, or keeping track of interactions with others.
Keeping a Diary. Identifying thoughts and behavior patterns is so critical to CBT. The therapist may recommend that the individual keep a diary.
Increased Exposure to Fear. Part of CBT includes learning techniques for facing challenges. The therapist may introduce fears gradually so that the individual can learn how to react.
Practicing Skills Learned. A therapist will expect individuals to use the tools provided outside of sessions. Individuals should then report back about their effectiveness. Skills may also be practiced during sessions.
Outcomes of Therapy
Therapy outcomes depend in large part on the work taking place in each session. The work may feel difficult at first, as the therapist challenges thinking and behavior. But as the sessions progress, individuals will learn to apply the techniques to their daily lives.
As you receive CBT, you will develop a toolkit for handling different situations. The more tools the therapist provides, the more you will be able to try different techniques. You will learn what works best for you.
Often, therapy sessions will involve talking about what has been happening in daily life. During discussions with the therapist, “wins” will be acknowledged and celebrated. You’ll come to identify you may have reacted one way in the past, but have learned to respond differently.
Improving Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health is an integral part of your recovery. It will help you stay on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. By taking care of yourself, you can live a happy and fulfilling life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can give you the underlying tools you need. You can learn to focus on the positives in your life and meaningful connections with other people. You will be able to better process your thoughts and behaviors.