Substance Use

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Drug & Alcohol Addiction

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Everything You Need to Know About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? What does CBT stand for? How does it work? Why should I consider using it?

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients change their thoughts and behaviors to manage stress and anxiety. This therapy has been proven effective for treating depression, phobias, OCD, panic attacks, and other mental health conditions.

It focuses on changing negative thinking patterns and replacing them with positive ones. The goal is to improve mood and behavior through exposure and response prevention. 

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people understand how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors interact to influence each other. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts shape what we feel and do, and that our emotions affect our thinking. CBT seeks to identify unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior, and replace those patterns with more helpful ones.

It recognizes that we often think about things that make us unhappy and act in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others. However, CBT considers the entire process of thinking, feeling, and acting. This allows CBT to consider factors like the role of memory, impact of stress, and importance of relationships.

The most basic principle underlying CBT is that we learn best when we are aware of what we are doing. CBT focuses on helping people become conscious of their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and to recognize that these processes are related.

CBT helps patients recognize that negative thoughts lead to negative feelings, which can cause undesirable behaviors. It also teaches patients to notice and challenge negative thoughts before they turn into destructive beliefs or behaviors.


How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT works by helping you identify your own personal triggers and then learning new coping skills to deal with stressful situations.

Triggers can be anything from an upsetting event to something as simple as being late for work. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you will start practicing cognitive restructuring techniques to help you cope better with them.

These include:

  • Identifying negative thoughts and challenging them
  • Changing the way you react to events
  • Learning to control your impulses
  • Practicing relaxation exercises

Why Should I Consider Using CBT?

CBT is one of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy today. Research shows that it’s effective at reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.

In fact, studies show that CBT is just as effective as medication for some types of depression. Unlike medications, CBT doesn’t have any side effects.

CBT is also cost-effective. It is much less expensive than many other treatments. Additionally, CBT has been shown to be safe and effective for children and adolescents. 

What to Expect in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is usually delivered one-to-one or in small groups with family members or friends. Sessions typically last between 45 minutes and 90 minutes each.

You’ll meet with your therapist more often during the first few weeks, then less frequently after that. You may find that you need to see your therapist more frequently during times of high stress.

Your therapist will ask questions about your life and listen carefully to your answers. They will help you identify your own personal problems and teach you how to address them.

Your First Therapy Session

At your first session, your therapist will usually gather information about you and your life, including your history and background. He or she will probably ask questions about your current state of mind and how you feel physically. You’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable with the therapist you choose. 

During CBT

CBT helps clients identify and challenge negative thinking patterns, such as catastrophizing, overgeneralization, rumination, emotional reasoning, and jumping to conclusions. It teaches patients to recognize and respond differently to stressful situations rather than letting them control them.

Steps in CBT

 Cognitive behavior therapists help clients understand how their thoughts affect their feelings and actions. They teach clients skills to cope better with difficult situations and develop healthier ways of responding emotionally.

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to improve overall well-being and reduce stress. This process usually involves:

  • Identifying problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • Understanding why those thoughts, feelings and behaviors occur
  • Learning alternative ways of coping with stressful events
  • Practicing new ways of behaving
  • Evaluating whether the changes are working

Skills For Managing Triggers

Recognizing triggers and avoiding them are important steps toward recovery, which can be easier said than done. In fact, people who struggle with addiction often find themselves relapsing because they’re unable to identify what causes them to use substances.

Triggers can include things like:

  • Being around someone who uses drugs
  • Seeing a drug dealer
  • Having an argument with a loved one
  • Feeling depressed
  • Experiencing a traumatic event

It’s not always easy to avoid these triggers, especially when you’re feeling down or stressed out. But if you learn to recognize them, you can take steps to work positively toward your recovery.


The good news is that cognitive behavioral therapy works. Patients treated with cognitive behavioral therapy often have fewer depressive symptoms and less severe depression over a period of time compared to those given medications alone. 

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT works well for many disorders and conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders

In addition to helping clients improve their mental health, CBT can help prevent future problems. CBT can reduce symptoms of PTSD, decrease the likelihood of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even prevent the development of PTSD altogether.

CBT offers a number of benefits to clients. Here are some examples of ways that CBT can benefit patients:

  • CBT can help people manage their emotional responses to stressful situations
  • CBT can help you change unhealthy habits
  • CBT can help treat existing psychological disorders

Effectiveness of CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) emerged during the 1960s, and it became widely used among psychologists in the 1970s. In the 1980s, researchers began studying whether CBT could be useful in treating psychological disorders.

Since then, studies have shown that CBT is effective for a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, OCD, panic attacks, bulimia nervosa, and substance abuse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction Treatment

Automatic negative thoughts are often root causes of depression and anxiety disorders. They can lead people to feel hopeless, helpless, worthless or guilty. These feelings can trigger suicidal thinking and attempts. Depression and anxiety are often co-occurring disorders for substance abuse disorder. As a result, CBT has been found to be an effective treatment for addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals cope with such thoughts and reduce their chances of developing addictive behaviors. CBT teaches patients to identify unhelpful thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones. It also helps patients learn how to control impulsive behavior by replacing automatic thoughts with more rational ones.

If you or a loved one struggles with substance use disorder, help is available. Contact Zinnia Health by calling (855) 430-9439 or filling out our online contact form to learn more about available treatment options.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT uses three main components:


In CBT, therapists teach patients to recognize when they’re having negative thoughts and emotions. Then, they work on identifying what’s causing these thoughts and emotions. For example, if someone is feeling depressed because he lost his job, CBT would ask him to think about all the things he did right at work. This might include being helpful to coworkers, getting along with customers, or doing a good job.


After learning to identify negative thoughts and emotions, CBT teaches patients to become aware of their thoughts and emotions before acting on them. If someone feels angry after losing his job, for instance, CBT would ask her to notice her anger before she acts on it.


Once patients understand their thoughts and emotions, CBT teaches them to take action to change those thoughts and emotions. For instance, if someone is feeling sad because he lost his job and wants to get another one, CBT would ask this person to look for new opportunities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

Addiction treatment often includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy helps people understand how their thoughts affect their emotions and behaviors. For example, someone struggling with alcohol (or alcohol addiction) might notice that he feels anxious when drinking alone, even though his friends are always around.

He could write down his thoughts about being alone, such as “I am afraid of being rejected.” Then he could take a moment to consider whether there really is something to fear. If it turns out that he does feel anxiety, he could ask himself why he feels that way. Are his fears justified? Is there some reason why he shouldn’t feel anxious?

CBT techniques can help people overcome addictions and mental illness, as well as manage chronic pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help correct any distortions that patients experience over the short-term by questioning their thinking.

For example, if a patient notices that he craves alcohol every time he gets upset, he could write down his thoughts and then challenge them. He could say to himself, “It seems like I’m always craving alcohol when I’m upset. But maybe I just need to calm down first.” Or he could ask himself, “What makes me want to drink?” If he realizes that he drinks because he feels lonely, he could try to find ways to make friends or reach out to loved ones.

Individual and Group Treatments

CBT includes a variety of interventions that are designed to address the cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and interpersonal factors that contribute to substance use disorders. These include:

  • Motivational interventions
  • Contingency management
  • Relapse prevention
  • Related interventions

Motivational Interventions

Motivational interventions increase willingness and commitment to changing behavioral patterns among individuals struggling with addiction. Motivational interventions often involve:

  • Goal setting
  • Self-monitoring
  • Reinforcement contingencies

For example, one might set a guideline of attending AA meetings every day. Self-monitoring could consist of keeping track of how many days the person attends AA meetings. If he or she attends meetings for seven consecutive days, then the person receives a reward such as a $10 gift card. This type of intervention focuses on increasing the likelihood that the individual will achieve his/her goals.

Contingency Management Strategies

Contingency management involves rewarding positive behavior while punishing negative behaviors. In substance abuse, people are rewarded for abstaining from substances and punished for engaging in substance use.

Contingency management strategies usually involve the use of vouchers or money earned for abstinence. For instance, someone might earn $5 per week for staying sober. When the person earns $25, he or she gets to choose what to do with it. 

Relapse Prevention and Related Interventions

Relapse prevention and related interventions aim to prevent relapses by teaching skills that help people cope with stressors and triggers associated with substance use. These techniques include:

  • Coping skills training
  • Stimulus control
  • Role-playing
  • Problem-solving
  • Relapse prevention planning

For example, a person who wants to stop smoking might learn relaxation exercises, avoid places where cigarettes are sold, develop a plan to deal with cravings, and practice those plans during stressful times.

Other CBT Techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) includes several different techniques used to treat mental health disorders, including:

  • Relaxation training for anxiety. Anxiety is a common symptom of many psychiatric conditions, including depression, PTSD, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder. People experiencing anxiety typically feel tense and worry about things like being unable to cope with situations, having trouble sleeping, and feeling afraid or ashamed.
  • Assertiveness training to improve relationship skills. Many people struggle with assertive communication because they don’t know what to say or do. They may avoid conflict or become passive-aggressive. Others may blame themselves for problems in relationships.
  • Cognitive restructuring to modify thought patterns. Thoughts influence our mood and actions. If we think about something repeatedly, it becomes part of our reality. In CBT, we’re taught to challenge our negative beliefs and replace them with positive ones. We’re encouraged to look at the facts and data rather than rely on our automatic assumptions. 

Find a CBT Provider Near You

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat anxiety disorders like depression, OCD, PTSD and phobias. CBT teaches people skills to help them cope with difficult situations. In addition, it helps people recognize and change their thought patterns that lead to negative emotions.

CBT works best when combined with medication and/or self-help techniques. If you’re ready to start treatment, find a qualified professional who specializes in CBT. Contact Zinnia Health by calling (855) 430-9439 or filling out our contact form. We can connect you with one of our trusted therapists who specialize in CBT.

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