When entering treatment for a substance use disorder, you will likely engage in a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is an evidence-based approach that is widely used in substance use treatment. By “evidence-based” it means that CBT has undergone decades of clinical research and has been found to be statistically efficacious for helping people to sustain recovery.
CBT is effective because it focuses on addressing thoughts and behaviors that are often associated with the addiction cycle. The techniques help you to make fundamental changes in the way you process triggers or stimuli, leading to healthier behavioral responses. As these techniques are practiced, they become newly engrained thought patterns that operate as highly effective coping skills in recovery.
What is CBT?
CBT is a short-term form of therapy based on B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist school of thought. Behaviorism, or behavioral psychology, is a theory that focuses on a person’s actions in response to stimuli. CBT uses this approach, and combines it with the cognitive, or thought-based, aspects of human actions.
CBT is a central treatment element utilized in substance use recovery, as well as a wide range of mental health conditions. It is well suited for residential treatment programs because it can produce positive outcomes in a short period of time. This is in contrast to psychodynamic therapy, which delves deep into the person’s childhood and background, or a long-term type of psychotherapy that is less conducive to the typical duration of residential treatment programming.
How CBT Helps in Recovery
It is essential to understand why CBT is so valuable to recovery. Overcoming a substance use disorder depends heavily on making necessary changes in the way you react to stressors and triggers. It simply isn’t enough to complete a withdrawal management program alone, as dysfunctional behaviors will also need to be modified to sustain recovery. If that important work is not done, it is only a matter of time before a stressful event could trigger a relapse.
The key to sustaining recovery is learning new ways to process and respond to both everyday stressors and serious life events without reverting back to substance use. CBT helps you to identify thought distortions or self-defeating beliefs that would otherwise trigger substance use, and then learn new ways to frame your thoughts and actions.
Some of the ways CBT helps in recovery include:
- Provides Valuable Coping Skills. As you learn to take a pause before reacting to a stressor, you are better able to manage your emotions, and also improve your interpersonal communication skills. CBT becomes the new coping mechanism, instead of the use of a substance.
- Helps You Avoid Triggers. The core purpose of CBT is to identify your stressors and learn new ways to manage them. However, CBT also helps you learn to avoid these triggers to the best of your ability in the first place, which further reduces the risk of relapse.
- Builds Self-Esteem. CBT helps you shift negative self-messaging toward positive, constructive thoughts and actions. Over time, this positive thinking will begin to boost your self-esteem.
- Helps You Set Personal Goals. When working with a CBT therapist, you create a list of key changes you want to make in the way you relate to triggers, including people, situations, or thoughts. Ongoing CBT therapy helps you tackle these goals and make the core changes that will benefit recovery efforts.
- Helps Prevent Relapse. By practicing the new positive thought-behavior patterns, you are more apt to choose a healthy behavioral response to a stressor versus returning to substance use.
CBT is a vital recovery tool for achieving long-term sobriety. It teaches you to recognize your triggers, to avoid them if possible, and new, healthy ways to cope with them when you do encounter them. Along the way, you will acquire a more positive mindset that will surely benefit all aspects of your life.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.