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The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Abuse & Addiction

cbt for substance abuse

“The first place we lose the battle is in our own thinking. If you think it’s permanent, then it’s permanent. If you think you’ve reached your limits, then you have. If you think you’ll never get well, then you won’t. You have to change your thinking. You need to see everything that’s holding you back, every obstacle, every limitation, as only temporary.” – Joel Osteen

Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, self-pity, resentment. Believing that you are a failure or flawed, that the world is against you. Feeling like nothing good will come your way; feeling unable to make a change let alone get out of bed. Sound familiar? These are all characteristics of negative and destructive thinking – and are all very common among those struggling with drug addiction.

If someone you love is battling a substance use disorder, you have likely seen these harmful thought patterns exhibited in some way. Maybe your teen is in denial that he or she has a drug problem, and thinks that you, as a parent, are constantly out to get them. Maybe your child is struggling with depression, self-image issues, or traumas of the past, and has turned to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. If your young adult is battling a mental health disorder of any sorts – whether anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, PTSD, or psychosis – he or she has likely demonstrated unhealthy thinking (and subsequent unhealthy behaviors) before. He or she may also believe that healing and recovery are completely out of reach.

As a parent, though, it’s important to know that recovery is attainable. There is professional help available to those struggling with drug addiction and destructive, self-defeating thoughts. There is dedicated help for those battling co-occurring disorders – a substance use disorder alongside a mental health disorder – and looking to break the cycle of negative thinking and substance abuse.

An addiction rehab center that enacts Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques and dual diagnosis treatment methods can help your loved one overcome the very negative thoughts and behaviors that are driving his or her drug abuse.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Addiction?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment method that identifies the negative thought patterns influencing a person’s addictive behaviors.

Most often with substance use disorders, it is some extent of negative thinking that propels a person to continue using drugs (often as a means of self-medicating); and it is this continuous drug use that keeps on fueling unhealthy feelings and thoughts. CBT serves as an intervention to this damaging cycle. It focuses on identifying the root of a person’s drug problem, changing their distorted ways of thinking, practicing alternative, positive ways of thinking, and teaching them to cope with any distressing emotions that arise.

CBT differs from other approaches to addiction treatment in that the client and therapist actively work together. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for substance abuse, a client and counselor or therapist will have regular, one-to-one meetings to talk through things like:

  • What might have prompted the client’s initial drug use
  • What thoughts, attitudes, or assumptions might keep the drug use going
  • What (healthy) things the client might do instead of using drugs or alcohol
  • What a client can do to handle drug cravings and high-risk situations
  • How to turn deep-rooted, negative thoughts, attitudes, and assumptions into productive, constructive behaviors

What are the Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Abuse in Young Adults?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises that drug treatment programs with behavioral therapy models (like CBT) are most effective in treating addiction in young people. This is because behavioral therapy gets through to adolescents and young adults, who often do not realize the extent (or the effects) of their drug problem, and who often do not have a willingness to change. Behavioral therapy allows teens and young adults to recognize that change is needed, and proactively shows them ways to make change happen:

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Behavioral therapies, delivered by trained clinicians, help an adolescent stay off drugs by strengthening his or her motivation to change. This can be done by providing incentives for abstinence, building skills to resist and refuse substances and deal with triggers or craving, replacing drug use with constructive and rewarding activities, improving problem-solving skills, and facilitating better interpersonal relationships.”

At Turnbridge, we utilize CBT as a means to help teens and young adults recognize the root of their substance abuse and to also overcome it. We teach clients how to identify negative thoughts and feelings, as well as any external, higher-risk situations, and make something positive out of them. We also focus on enhancing clients’ life, coping, and stress management skills, better equipping them to handle any relapse triggers and difficult cravings that arise after treatment ends. We also encourage clients to utilize these strategies and skills in their everyday lives.

In a recent study published earlier this year, it was revealed that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for substance abuse may help patients stay sober and maintain their recovery, despite relapse triggers and impulses. The study showed that CBT physically increased efficiency in the areas of the brain responsible for coordinating cognitive control, setting goals, and staying on track with tasks.

In Turnbridge’s drug treatment programs, we place a big focus on setting goals and pursuing them. From the beginning, our residents learn to envision their future by creating personal goals – going to college, getting a good job, making amends with family, attending 12-step meetings, staying sober for a certain number of years. These goals, no matter what they might be, give clients something to work towards, and truly put meaning back into their lives.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for substance abuse and addiction also enables clients to work through any destructive thoughts, habits, or beliefs that might inhibit their goals. This is especially helpful for those battling dual diagnosis (or, co-occurring disorders), who constantly face obstacles caused by negative thoughts. In an integrated dual diagnosis treatment program like Turnbridge, co-occurring disorders are treated at the same place, same time, and with the same amount of attention, allowing clients to heal physically as well as mentally. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, combined with group sessions, one-to-one counseling, and mindfulness techniques, are used to help clients understand the conditions affecting their mental health, and work towards a life free of their symptoms. This type of treatment is the key to finding stability in a person’s mind and body, and also the key to their sobriety.

As famous country singer Willie Nelson once said, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for addiction and substance abuse encourages just this – replacing destructive thoughts with constructive ones, replacing self-defeating thoughts with productive ones, and learning how to think positively about one’s self and about the circumstances that life throws at them. Only then can the healing process begin.

To learn more about the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for substance abuse, or to get more information on Turnbridge’s young adult treatment programs, please call 877-581-1793.