If you’ve struggled with substance use, you’re likely to have noticed the toll drugs and alcohol have on your mind. When you face an addiction, you become stuck in a negative thought cycle and feel like substances are in control of your actions.

Starting treatment for a substance use disorder means you’ll partake in some form of individual or groups therapy, likely both. While this therapy can take several forms and generally includes a combination of treatment modalities, it’s sure to include some form of cognitive behavioral therapy. This framework is both empowering and evidence-based and will give you the best shot at success in sobriety.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy for?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, commonly abbreviated CBT, is a method of talk therapy that focusing on changing thoughts to change behaviors. CBT is one of the most widely used forms of therapy. According to the American Psychological Association, It has proven to be effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, eating disorders and more.

CBT can be used as the sole framework of treatment or combined with other methods. The journal Psychiatric Clinics of North America states that CBT is effective both independently and combined with other modes of treatment. Moreover, CBT can address various disorders at once. One of the most popular uses of cognitive behavioral therapy is for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

CBT changes behaviors by identifying the root of them. A person will first trace back to the feelings and thoughts that precede a behavior, and then work to change the response to negative emotions into a more productive and healthy reaction. This mode of treatment also emphasizes the use of coping skills, or simple activities to decrease distress and improve functioning when faced with adversity.

In the realm of addiction treatment, these cognitive behavioral therapy exercises, or coping strategies, are used as both preventative measures against triggers like loneliness, anger and sadness, and as a tool to manage emotions as they arise. CBT can help people heal from addictions and lead normal and happy lives.

How does CBT work?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a continual process of identifying and replacing negative thoughts, and learning skills to manage discomfort. Mayo Clinic outlines several steps that you can expect when you begin a CBT treatment plan.

  1. Identify issues: Healing or handling a problem starts with identifying it. CBT will help you to distinguish between issues and clarify goals so solving them is both realistic and achievable.
  2. Build awareness of your thoughts around the issue: The things we tell ourselves are called “self-talk.” In this step you’ll start to differentiate between good, neutral and bad thoughts.
  3. Pinpoint the negative talk: Our negative behaviors stem from our negative thoughts about the problems in our life. This stage is all about noticing negative patterns and honing in on the ones that most need to change.
  4. Replace negative thoughts: After you’ve pinpointed patterns, you’ll be much more equipped to change them. Pessimistic or damaging thoughts can be exchanged for constructive and hopeful thoughts. 

In addition to adjusting thought patterns, cognitive behavioral therapy exercises like deep breathing or mindfulness can help you cope and overcome triggers. These skills can often be practiced in the moment or as preventative measures when challenges can be anticipated. Other cognitive behavioral therapy exercises for coping include positive self-talk, stretching, working out, journaling, reading and so forth.

What are some benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy gives you tangible skills to combat distress, new and positive thinking habits and an outlet to process events and your response to them. When you partake in treatment that includes CBT, your chances of recovery increase and you’ll find meaning through the healing process.

Like all psychotherapy, CBT gives you an opportunity to invest in your mental wellness so you can live a more full life. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, studies show that those who participate in CBT show changes in the brain, meaning CBT can improve cognitive functioning. This lasting impact can spill over and affect all areas of your life, including career, relationships and life satisfaction.

Furthermore, the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy can help you build skills that stick around long after treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the primary benefits of this treatment framework is the self-control you’ll develop by having CBT as part of your treatment plan. As you progress through CBT treatment, you’ll find it becomes easier and easier to fight off urges to use drugs or alcohol.

How do I get a CBT treatment plan?

When you’re ready to take advantage of cognitive behavioral therapy benefits, you’ll want to know where to start. To get a CBT treatment plan, you’ll need to get connected to a professional substance use treatment center. The vast majority of addiction treatment centers utilize some form of CBT in their services, but you’re always welcome to ask how this framework is incorporated.

If you’ve already started care, your mental health or addiction therapist can clue you in on the ins and outs of what CBT looks like in action. You can also work on CBT outside of treatment: Keep a journal of your thoughts and highlight the ones you hope to change. Spend some time reflecting on how you can replace the negative thoughts with more constructive ones.

While you can build on CBT at home, partaking in professional treatment is critical to your recovery. If mental illness or addiction is affecting your everyday life, Real Recovery Clinical Services offers cognitive behavioral therapy via a variety of treatment options. Call 855-363-7325 today to start changing your life for the better.