Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment is widely available, but not all methods have proven track records of success. Cognitive behavior therapy is one that does. This breakthrough approach was first introduced in 1920 to treat depression. It is now the most widely used, evidence-based method, and it’s effective for a variety of problems:
Understanding Cognitive Behavior Therapy
When you hear the word therapy, you might think of psychoanalysis. This Freudian approach attempts to uncover the subconscious roots of behavior. CBT is nothing like that. Also, CBT therapists are not passive. They don’t sit through sessions in silence leaving you to sort things out for yourself.
The premise of CBT is that your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all interconnected. How you think impacts how you feel and behave. How you behave may change the way you perceive things. If your feelings constantly drag you down, you can change your thought patterns and behavior to have a positive impact on your feelings.
The goal of CBT in addiction treatment is to focus separately on your thoughts, feelings and behaviors to discover their roles in your addiction.
Therapy will also uncover cognitive distortions. These are unnecessarily negative views of yourself, your circumstances, your relationships or your prospects for the future. These views may not even be based in reality, yet substance abusers dwell on them and even allow them to guide behavior. If someone is always pessimistic, it’s no wonder that they turn to drugs for comfort.
CBT aims to change those negative thoughts into positive ones that will make you feel and behave better.
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One-Stop Addiction Treatment
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with mood or anxiety disorders have double the risk for alcohol or drug abuse. It works the other way too; if you have substance use disorder, you’re twice as likely to have at least one emotional problem. A dual diagnosis of substance abuse and one or more other mental problems is called co-morbidity. It sounds scarier than it is, but it’s very important in treatment.
Drugs alter the brain’s structure and function. Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression do as well. All of these changes take place in the same areas of the brain, so they tend to overlap. It’s a little like wondering if the egg or the chicken came first. The addiction might have triggered the mental illness. The mental illness may have triggered the addiction. They share many of the same risk factors and symptoms, and each disorder tends to exacerbate the other. The only solution is to treat them together at the same time.
Simply put, if you want to stay sober, your chances of success increase dramatically if your treatment also targets any other mental problems that you have.
Addiction and other disorders are largely inherited, but environmental factors also come into play. CBT takes all of these things into account for comprehensive treatment. It’s designed to address all your emotional triggers to drug or alcohol abuse and teach you strategies for avoiding relapse.
What to Expect in CBT
Your treatment plan will be like no one else’s. It will be tailored to your specific needs and goals depending on your drug of choice, the severity of your problem and other factors. What works for cocaine doesn’t necessarily work for alcohol or painkillers or meth. What works for a businessman doesn’t necessarily work for a college freshman.
Generally speaking, CBT will first give you a thorough education about your disease. Collaborating with your therapist, you’ll set an agenda and come up with treatment goals.
Your sessions could last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Meeting once a week for three to four months is highly beneficial. In some studies, patients have shown continued improvement for up to a year after CBT ends. Make plenty of time for treatment, even if it’s on an outpatient basis, and don’t cut the course short.
Here’s a sampling of what takes place in CBT:
• Discussing irrational thoughts
• Pinpointing sources of stress
• Confronting negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes
• Identifying problematic behaviors
• Devising positive coping skills for stressful situations
• Learning to relax and reduce anxiety
• Setting strategies to restore strained or broken relationships
• Learning to self-monitor thoughts and behavior
• Discussing progress and setbacks
• If necessary, deciding where adjustments in treatment are needed
The best thing about CBT is its flexibility. It is beneficial for a variety of problems, and it can be effectively used in combination with other proven therapies. It’s also extremely low-risk. On the off chance that it doesn’t help you, and that would be rare, it certainly won’t hurt you.
The only downside is waiting too long to begin. CBT works best when treatment is begun immediately after diagnosis and detox.