Compared to most others, addiction is an incredibly complicated and almost enigmatic disease that we’re only just beginning to understand. Years ago, addiction was seen as an issue of morality rather than a disease with addicts seen as deviants who were consciously choosing not to exercise any self-control. However, we’ve come to realize that addiction is actually a chronic, progressive brain disease characterized by the structural and functional changes in the brain resulting from habitual abuse of alcohol or drugs. This so-called disease model of addiction is the pervading understanding of addiction today, but there are still many people who associate morality and character with addiction. Fortunately, treatment methods like cognitive behavioral therapy can address the underlying causes of addiction, showing us that there’s more to substance abuse than a lack of self-control.

With addiction being such a complex disease, the treatment of an addiction isn’t as straightforward as we might hope. There are many different ways to become addicted, many drugs to which a person could become addicted, and a diverse variety of effects that a person could experience after developing an alcohol or drug addiction. Since every addict’s recovery needs are different from the needs of others, addiction recovery requires methods of treatment that are adaptable and able to address recovery needs individually. For this reason, the cognitive-behavioral method of psychotherapy remains one of the most widely-used and highly effective forms of treatment for addiction.

What Exactly is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction?

There are numerous types of psychotherapy or counseling, each of which has specific purposes and applications. Of course, there have been numerous psycho therapeutic techniques used in the treatment of substance abuse problems, but the cognitive-behavioral style of psychotherapy is widely considered the most effective for a couple key reasons. First, cognitive behavioral therapy a short-term form of psychotherapy, making it particularly useful in the treatment of addiction since most individuals are in active treatment for relatively short periods of time. The idea is that the psychological problems people develop are oftentimes linked to past experiences and one’s cognition’s. Further, cognitive behavioral therapy is an extremely goal-oriented approach that helps patients to recognize their problems, identify the sources of those problems, and develop strategies for overcoming those problems so they’re no longer putting their health and well-being in jeopardy.

Initially, the cognitive-behavioral method of therapy was intended for individuals who had drinking problems. The use of cognitive behavioral therapy with alcoholics helped them to identify the causes for their problematic drinking behavior; some of the most common causes include prior exposure to alcohol abuse behavior, having an inability to cope with stress and other negative emotions in a constructive way, and so on. Over time, the cognitive-behavioral method of therapy was found to have immense value in many other situations, which is why it continues to hold a central place in addiction treatment programs around the world.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as Substance Abuse Treatment

It should come as no surprise the form of therapy that originated as a means of treating alcoholism would continue to be used for all types of substance abuse problems today. The reason for this is because cognitive behavioral therapy has certain characteristics that make it particularly well-suited for addiction treatment. As mentioned previously, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy is a short-term, goal-oriented form of therapy, meaning that there’s a major focus on an individual’s most urgent problems and finding immediate solutions; since the majority of addiction treatment programs last between a month and three months, the use of this short-term, goal-oriented approach to psychotherapy ensures that each patient achieves the most symptom improvement possible in the limited time spent in active treatment.

Let’s consider how cognitive behavioral psychotherapy for addiction works: At the start of treatment between a psychotherapist and a patient, the therapist helps the patient to identify thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and predispositions that could be the source of his or her substance abuse. With that knowledge, the therapist can help the patient learn why those thoughts, feelings, and attitudes — or “cognitions” — even exist in the first place so that the effects of those cognitions can be mitigated. After determining what experiences contributed to the individual’s substance abuse, the therapist can teach the patient useful skills that will help the individual cope in more productive ways that don’t involve alcohol or drug use.

By working with clients to reframe long-standing, distorted and often negative cognitions we (our therapists) help reestablish more prosocial, functional and goal-oriented behavior patterns. CBT is considered by the professional addiction treatment community to be an essential building block to all successful treatment programs.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction in Florida

The benefits of a cognitive-behavioral approach to substance abuse treatment are quite numerous. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that this type of psycho therapeutic approach is extremely patient-centered; instead of the therapist leading the sessions and guiding the patient through predetermined topics, the sessions are totally dependent on the patient’s place in the addiction recovery process, his or her background, what may be on his or her mind on the given day, and the specific, underlying factors that have contributed to the individual’s alcohol or drug problem. In fact, even the skills that the therapist teaches a patient to help mitigate the causes of the patient’s substance abuse are extremely personalized and dependent on each patient’s needs and history.

When it comes to the cause of substance abuse problems, some people turn to alcohol and drugs simply because they never learned the coping skills that are needed to handle stress, adversity, and other emotional situations. For such individuals, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy affords an opportunity to learn those essential coping skills and various other strategies that will allow him or her to live a healthy, productive life and be part of their communities. As well, many addicts suffer from co-occurring, or comorbid, mental health problems, which are often identified over the course of cognitive behavioral forms of psychotherapy. When a comorbid mental illness is present, it’s common that the comorbid illness played a major factor in the individual’s development of an addiction; therefore, ensuring that the mental illness is addressed will minimize the likelihood that the mental illness would perpetuate a substance abuse problem.

Preparing for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

As far as preparations go, the best way to prepare for cognitive behavioral therapy is to do some serious reflection. Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions usually entail a deep exploration of a patient’s past experiences and cognitive processes, so it would be a good idea to begin thinking about some of one’s most pivotal experiences and how those experiences might have contributed to the development of a substance abuse problem.