Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is a winding road. A patient may undergo physical and mental stress on their struggle towards recovery. Fortunately, professionals have many tools to treat addiction and a form of mental health therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. In summary, CBT helps recovering substance abusers recognize and avoid harmful situations, and to cope with the variety of problems that come with substance abuse.
Substance abuse and addiction are often driven by a patient’s thoughts and behaviors. By challenging the patient’s cognitive processes – thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and so on – and focusing on how they relate to the patient’s behavior, CBT was designed to change the way the patient behaves and interacts with the world around them. CBT sessions tend to be short, with sessions lasting under an hour, and the therapist spends that time working with the patient in developing strategies that can be used to better deal with the patient’s problems.
Ben Martin, Psy.D., provides a concise history of the therapy on PsychCentral.com. CBT was pioneered in the 1960s by a psychiatrist named Aaron T. Beck, who coined the phrase “automatic thoughts” to describe the sudden emotional thoughts his patients had during their therapy sessions. These thoughts tended to be unrealistic and negative if the patient was upset or bothered. Beck realized that although people weren’t always aware of these thoughts, they could learn to identify them, and thus understand and eventually overcome their problems. Because this therapy places a lot of importance on thinking, Beck called it “cognitive therapy.” Behavioral techniques were added to the therapy as it evolved.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines some of the ways CBT helps patients by changing how they think:
- Staying clean: Patients learn to ask themselves what they could lose or gain by continuing with substance abuse.
- Learning to cope: Patients learn to identify and avoid situations that carry a risk of substance abuse.
- Gaining different experiences: Patients learn how to find new, positive activities to engage in that are not related to substance abuse.
- Managing addiction: Patients learn how deal with substance abuse urges, and to manage side effects of recovery like anger, anxiety and depression.
- Improve relationships: Patients learn to better develop personal skills and how to build and maintain drug-free support networks and friendships.
Many substance abuse patients have received help through CBT and other therapeutic tools. If you or a loved one is seeking treatment for substance abuse, please call 866-269-2493 as soon as possible.