For all age groups and across disorders including substance abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be of huge benefit to treatment success. A combination of cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy, CBT offers patients the opportunity to take an honest look at the personal beliefs and perspectives that are holding them back and help them to modify the same so they can become more adaptive and, therefore, more balanced and mentally well.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is successful because it allows the patient to work one on one with their therapist to:
- Set goals
- Create an agenda to achieve those goals
- Do “homework” outside the treatment setting to further the objective of treatment
- Identify maladaptive perspectives and thought patterns
- Alter maladaptive perspectives and thought patterns
- Translate healthy perspectives into healthy behaviors
- Identify active problems in day-to-day life
- Apply new healthy behaviors and problem solve
- Decrease overall stress levels and improve mood
Effectiveness of CBT in Substance Abuse Treatment
It’s a common characteristic of those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction to blame their addiction or their behaviors under the influence on other people. They often claim that:
- “It’s my mother’s fault that I’m an addict because she got high around me when I was little.”
- “It’s your fault I got loaded because you left money where I could get it.”
- “You made things too easy for me. I didn’t have anything to work for, so I got high because I was bored.”
- “You drink a glass of wine with dinner. I was just following your lead. I can’t help it that I had to drive home after dinner.”
The view that they are at the mercy of others and that there is a prescribed negative response to stressors that is unavoidable and includes drugs and alcohol is a perspective that can be altered over time through CBT. Learning to view themselves as the masters of their own lives and becoming accountable for their decisions and behaviors can create a huge shift in their recovery and enable them to make each choice a positive choice no matter what situations arise.
CBT for Dual Diagnosis Disorders
Not only is cognitive behavioral therapy exceedingly effective in the treatment of the behaviors related to compulsive drug and alcohol abuse, it is essential to the treatment of those who suffer from a dual diagnosis of addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder. CBT has been studied in the treatment of a wide range of mental health issues and proven to be effective in treating most of them, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
- Depression. Restructuring negative thought patterns can help depression patients to view the world in a more positive way.
- Anxiety. Learning how to handle feeling anxious or worried is the goal of CBT when anxiety is the issue. Some therapists may utilize “exposure therapy” to help the patient face their fear head on but in a safe space with cues on how to healthfully respond to the emotions as they arise.
- Schizophrenia. When utilized in addition to medication, CBT can be effective in helping schizophrenic patients in managing their symptoms, including hallucinations and hearing voices, as well as learning how to manage day-to-day functioning.
- Bipolar disorder. CBT can be beneficial in helping bipolar patients recognize the signs that a mood shift is about to happen and aid in managing their treatment.
- Eating disorders. The risk of relapse into disordered eating behaviors can be mitigated with intensive CBT as part of a long-term eating disorder treatment program.
When included in an integrated and personalized treatment plan, cognitive behavioral therapy plays a large part in the success of patients in recovery for addiction and a wide range of mental health disorders.