Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy for substance abuse disorders was created as a method to prevent relapse. It was first introduced to treat alcoholism and later was adapted for those addicted to cocaine.

The central element of CBT for addiction is anticipating problems and struggling with addiction’s reaction to them. Most lack self-control; by developing coping strategies, they can learn self-control and resist the urge to use.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strategies were created based on the theory that substance abuse is maladaptive behavior. In CBT for substance abuse, those fighting addictions learn to identify and correct problematic behaviors. This is done by applying many different skills that can be used to stop drug abuse and address other problems that might be causing them to use it. Specific techniques used in CBT for substance abuse include:

  • Exploring the positive and negative consequences of drug use
  • Self-monitoring to recognize cravings
  • Identify situations that might put one at risk for use
  • Developing strategies for dealing with cravings
  • Avoiding high-risk situations

Instead of traditional therapy methods, CBT for substance abuse offers a hands-on alternative. Rather than simply speaking to a therapist, CBT sessions include diving into your past. In CBT, addicts and therapists work together to solve problems and find the core of addiction.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is founded on action-focused, rapid treatment. Many 60- and 90-day rehab programs already include CBT in their treatment.

Effects of Substance Abuse

  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risk of illness and infection
  • Heart conditions: abnormal heart rates, heart attacks, collapsed veins, blood vessel infections
  • Nausea and abdominal pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased strain on the liver
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Mental confusion
  • Brain damage
  • Lung disease
  • Problems with memory
  • Attention and decision-making troubles
  • Paranoia
  • Aggressiveness
  • Addiction
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of self-control

Benefits of CBT for Substance Abuse

It is common for individuals struggling with substance abuse to have negative thoughts and destructive thinking. Not only are these thought patterns harmful, but when not recognizing these thought patterns, individuals often look for treatment for depression or other disorders.

CBT for substance abuse is important because it analyzes the actual thought patterns happening within an addict’s head. CBT helps those with drug abuse disorders practice alternative ways of thinking and regulates distressing emotions and harmful behavior.

The benefits of CBT for substance abuse include as follows:

  • Explores the client’s patterns of behavior in terms of self-destructive actions and negative beliefs that create these thoughts.
  • Allows clients and therapists to work together in a positive relationship.
  • Allows both client and therapist to seek to identify harmful thought patterns and seek alternate thinking.
  • Uses homework outside of sessions for real-life work.
  • Can be implemented in both group and individual therapy.
  • CBT for substance abuse creates skills that are practical and helpful strategies for everyday life.
  • Helps clients formulate coping strategies to handle potential stressors or triggers.

Mental Illness and CBT for Substance Abuse

A dual diagnosis is when someone has both a substance abuse disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder. More than 50% of individuals living with dual diagnoses have not received any medical treatment or psychotherapeutic intervention to help them in their recovery.

Widely today in addiction treatment, CBT for substance abuse teaches recovering addicts to find connections. Whether that is between their thoughts and feelings, thoughts and actions, or all three, it also helps to increase awareness of how these things impact recovery.

CBT for substance abuse can also treat co-occurring disorders such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

How CBT for Substance Abuse Works

Since automatic negative thoughts are typically the cause of depression or anxiety, they can also be the root of the addiction. CBT for substance abuse works in a few specific ways.

  • Dismantles false beliefs and insecurities that lead to substance abuse
  • Provide self-help tools to increase mood
  • Teaches effective communication skills
  • Diffuses triggers


Triggers are situations that can cause a person to use. These triggers are the reason many addicted people are unable to get sober. CBT for substance abuse helps those in recovery handle triggers in three main ways.

  • Recognize: identify which circumstances push you to use drugs or drink.
  • Avoid: remove yourself from situations that trigger you. Do this whenever possible.
  • Cope: use CBT for substance abuse techniques in daily life. Use these techniques to address and heal emotions or thoughts that lead to substance abuse.

Medication and CBT for Substance Abuse

Even after you leave treatment, research has proven that the teachings of CBT remain. By combining CBT with medications for drug abuse, powerful effects have been shown on addiction.

CBT for Substance Abuse Techniques

There are many different techniques used in CBT for substance abuse therapy. Some of these techniques include:

Recording Thoughts

When you actively use CBT for substance abuse, you will examine automatic negative thoughts. Then you can look for reasons to disapprove of those thoughts. This process includes listing evidence for and against those automatic thoughts. Compare and contrast. The goal is to think more balanced and not focus on the harsh thoughts by evaluating them rationally.

Behavioral Experiments

This exercise takes negative thoughts and contrasts them against positive ones. By doing this, you will see which is more effective in changing behavior. Some people choose to use self-kindness during this experiment, but others respond better to self-criticism. Behavioral experiments are about finding out what works best for you.

Imagery Based Exposure

This process is done by thinking of a memory that produces powerful negative feelings. Every sight, sound, emotion, thought, and impulse that was experienced at that moment should be thought of. Frequently revisit painful memories to reduce the anxiety that was caused by them initially.

Pleasant Activity Schedule

This technique involves making a weekly list of positive, healthy, and fun activities. These activities should break up your daily routine, be simple, and easy to perform. They should encourage positive emotions and reduce negative thinking or the need to use drugs.

Payment Options

Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it? We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification. We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.

How to Get Help

If you are struggling with a substance abuse disorder and are considering treatment, now is the time. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer a variety of programs, including CBT for substance abuse. Call today to schedule your consultation.