The Benefits of CBT in Addiction Treatment
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was introduced in the 1970s. It’s an effective therapy for the treatment of substance abuse addictions and other mental health disorders, such as eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. It can be used alone or in combination with other types of therapy to help addicts achieve and maintain sobriety. This therapy can be used in both group and individual settings.
CBT combines aspects of both cognitive and behavioral theory and is goal-oriented. It focuses on the connection between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and can help give patients coping skills that are necessary to avoid relapse and resist triggers. A therapist will work closely with a patient to instill a skill set and treatment plans are customized for each individual. Since it’s personalized for the patient and focuses on the patient’s belief system, one of the main advantages of this approach is that it’s culturally sensitive.
This therapy differs from other talk therapies. It doesn’t just involve a discussion between the patient and therapist. Instead, sessions involve skill-building and after the session, patients will need to complete homework on their own time. Therapists who utilize this method also act as both a teacher and therapist.
Before CBT can help a patient, a strong therapeutic alliance will need to be built in order to promote cooperation and trust. It’s important to the working relationship that the patient provides feedback to the therapist so the plan can be adjusted to suit the patient’s need. Many patients find this part of CBT appealing because they can take the strategies they learn in sessions and apply them to real-life situations.
What Role Does CBT Play in Addiction Treatment?
When enrolled in a treatment program, patients may receive this therapy on a group or individual basis or both. This therapy will focus on empowering the individual and encourage them to rely on themselves and their own abilities, instead of depending on the therapists. Once a patient completes treatment for substance abuse, they can carry over the skills learned in CBT to live a healthy life and avoid relapse.
When CBT is used for the treatment of drug or alcohol addiction, it will focus on reducing or eliminating substance abuse patterns and replace these patterns with alternative behaviors that are healthier. Within an addiction treatment program, the therapy helps patients recognize certain trigger situations and come up with ways to avoid these triggers. It helps individuals learn healthier ways to deal with situations and emotions that lead to alcohol or drug abuse.
How Does CBT Work?
The first meeting will orient the patient to this therapy. It will educate them on what this therapy entails and the therapists will ask about the substance abuse history. During this first meeting, there may also be a list of behaviors the patient wants to focus on and improve. A therapist will evaluate the patient’s thought patterns and ask how he or she perceives himself or herself and the future. This information is gathered in order to come up with an individualized treatment plan. Once the treatment plan is created, progress is made with different strategies.
Goal Setting: The patient and therapist come up with outcomes the patient wants to achieve related to substance abuse or other behaviors. These goals need to be measurable and achievable. If goals are too high then the patient can become discouraged.
Agenda Setting: The patient and therapist will then come up with a plan for how each session will be spent. An individual can suggest what they like to cover and prioritize when it comes to treatment goals.
Relaxation: Techniques that can decrease tension, anxiety, and stress can be chosen based on what helps each individual patient. These relaxation techniques will become necessary when faced with a trigger that could lead to relapse.
Problem Solving: The therapist and patient then identify strategies that can be used to deal with problems associated with triggers. These strategies are used to increase confidence and feelings of control.
Behavioral Activation: This is a set of strategies used to influence mood and emotions. Just as emotions and thoughts will influence behaviors, the opposite is true. It’s important to reintroduce enjoyable activities into the daily routine to improve mood and decrease any negative thoughts.
Homework Assignments: This can be practicing the skills learned, monitoring behaviors, and completing different readings.
How CBT Helps with Relapse Prevention
Relapse prevention is one of the main focuses of CBT. In order to prevent relapse, therapists will educate patients on how to anticipate problems. Therapists then assist patients in building coping skills to use in these high-risk situations and environments.
Role-play and practice are the main ways to build the skills needed to avoid relapse. Playing out any potential situations in a controlled setting can be a great way for patients to build up the confidence needed to avoid a relapse when faced with drug using triggers.