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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Addiction

Several factors contribute to the development of substance abuse disorder, including genes and environmental factors. People with a history of substance abuse have an increased risk of relapse and are less likely to recover from addiction successfully. But, do not lose hope because a solution called cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction can be applied to help people overcome substance abuse.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy technique based on the idea that human behavior results from thinking and emotion. It helps people understand how they can change their thoughts and feelings, resulting in behavioral changes.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective addiction treatment. The National Institute of Health states that CBT has proven more effective than other treatments, such as medication or self-help, in treating alcohol and drug addiction.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works?

CBT focuses on the relationship between our actions and our thoughts. Surprisingly, our thoughts are the primary factors that determine our actions. This is why CBT treats people with a history of substance abuse. CBT helps people understand the thoughts that lead to substance abuse and change these thoughts to healthier ones.


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Techniques Used In CBT

Addictions may be treated effectively using CBT approaches. Here are a few of the most popular methods:

1. Relaxation Techniques

Everyone's experience with relaxation methods will be unique. Playing music, planting, or having a bath are all ways to unwind. These might be beneficial if you are upset because of a stressful situation.

2. Journaling

When you're not in treatment, keep a journal to record your negative ideas and how you dealt with them. This will help you identify the thoughts that lead to your addiction.


3. Assistive Exploration

After gaining your data, your psychologist will bring queries that will confront your perspective. This may open your mind to new ideas and points of view you might not have considered previously.

4. Thought Challenges

Using this method, you broadly view the problem and analyze its facets. It's not presuming that your thoughts are correct but rather challenging yourself to examine the facts realistically.

5. Cognitive Restructuring

This method aims to develop a new set of thoughts that will replace the old ones. In this method, you examine how you view yourself and the world.

Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

CBT for Substance Abuse

A successful recovery from substance abuse requires several factors. One of the most important factors is the presence of a therapist who can help people develop a better understanding of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.


A therapist can help people to identify the factors that trigger their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and to understand the effects of these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 


Yet, many people are afraid to talk to a therapist about their substance abuse, thinking it is a private matter. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is no evidence that discussing one’s substance abuse with a therapist is harmful.


People can also learn how to change their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors through CBT. CBT focuses on the ideas related to substance abuse and helps people change their thoughts and beliefs to healthier ones. CBT is the most effective treatment for people ready to change their thoughts and behaviors.

CBT for Addiction


Addiction is characterized by a person's obsessive use of a drug or other behavior, even when the behavior has negative repercussions. It is common for people attempting to overcome their addictions to declare they would like to change. Even though they may sincerely want to, they still find it hard.


Addiction can be of anything such as:


  • Drugs

  • Alcohol

  • Sexual behavior

  • Compulsive behavior

  • Binge eating

  • Video games

  • Many more


The CBT method, addictions are caused by erroneous ideas and unpleasant sensations. Again, the core of CBT is the belief that we can change our thoughts and emotions, and as a result, we can change our behavior.


However, CBT for addiction focuses more on the negative emotions resulting from addictive behaviors. The key idea is that negative emotions do not necessarily cause us to act out but the incorrect beliefs we hold about ourselves.


In the process of CBT for addiction, people are encouraged to find out the most important beliefs about themselves. They are then challenged to examine the evidence supporting or disproving these beliefs.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Following are the significant benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:


1. Most Effective Treatment

CBT is more effective than other forms of treatment. CBT is most effective for people who are motivated to change.


2. Improves Social Functioning

CBT helps people to develop better social functioning. CBT can help people identify their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to their addiction.

3. Treats Emotional and Psychological Issues

CBT is used to treat people who have a history of substance abuse. CBT helps people understand the thoughts that lead to substance abuse and change these thoughts to healthier ones.


4. Provides Hope

Many people who have a history of substance abuse are afraid to talk to a therapist about their substance abuse. CBT is an effective way to address the fears that people have about discussing their addiction.


5. Suitable for All

CBT is a suitable treatment for people of all ages. CBT can help people of all ages to achieve their goals. The methods of CBT can be adapted to the age and maturity level of the person. 


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Addiction is a severe concern for many people. It can affect how you live your life and cause harm to yourself and your family. Addiction is a condition that requires serious attention. You can benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy if you have a substance abuse problem.

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works
Techniques used in CBT 
CBT for substance abuse
CBT for addiction
Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
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