Addiction to drugs or alcohol can be crippling to an individual, but the damage it causes is not contained. The pain and heartache associated with addiction can spread out to the friends and family of the person with addiction. In the same way, treatment for addiction can provide healing to more than just the person struggling with addiction, which is why loved ones will often encourage the person with addiction to seek help. Treatment for addiction is a multifaceted process that involves healing the body and mind. One important component of addiction treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of mental health counseling that helps people to connect their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used to successfully treat addiction for many years and has helped many people.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of mental health counseling that has been used to treat a variety of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, psychosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, trauma, as well as addiction. Its broad range of applications shows what a versatile and effective approach it is. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist works one-on-one with the patient to make connections between their thoughts, feelings, and actions, especially as they relate to addiction. In many cases, the patient will have established patterns of thoughts and feelings that trigger the action of abusing drugs or alcohol. By working with the therapist, the patient can learn specific skills to alter these thought and feeling patterns to change the action of substance abuse.

Cognitive Behavioral Techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapists employ several techniques to help their patients cope with drug and alcohol addiction and to teach them skills that they can use outside of therapy. First, the therapist will work with the patient to address feelings that have contributed to the addiction. The two work together to identify negative feelings the patient may have.  Many times, people struggling with addiction have strong feelings of self-doubt or poor self-image. They may have turned to substance abuse as a form of self-medication for these feelings. The therapist and patient will also work together to identify any negative thoughts that are contributing to substance abuse. For example, people may have recurring thoughts about a painful experience in their past that they try to numb with substance abuse. These experiences may include trauma, such as a serious accident or the loss of a family member, or physical or sexual assault or abuse. Once these thoughts and feelings are identified, the therapist can help the patient to cast them in a new light and retrain the brain to think positive thoughts instead of falling back into the same patterns. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that can help here include:

  • Cognitive restructuring to change thought patterns
  • Relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety
  • Self-monitoring skills to improve personal insight
  • Assertiveness training to improve relationships

The patient and therapist will also work to change the patient’s behavior in concrete ways. Most people with addiction have certain triggers that subconsciously push them to abuse drugs or alcohol. By identifying what triggers an individual, that person can consciously avoid those triggers or prepare himself to cope if the triggers cannot be avoided. Either way, the individual learns not to just immediately react to triggers but to be in control of his own behavior. This is done through a three-step approach:

  1. Recognize triggers: identify which situations contribute to substance abuse
  2. Avoid: if possible, remove oneself from these situations
  3. Cope: when avoidance is not possible, utilize specific skills learned in cognitive behavioral training to handle negative thoughts and feelings

For example, some people may be triggered to abuse drugs and alcohol when they hang out with certain friends. By applying the process above, they can recognize which friends prompt substance abuse, then avoid those friends. But for other people, spending time with certain family members may be a trigger that cannot be avoided. But if they recognize that the trigger is a family member, they can prepare in advance how they will cope with that person. If that person causes the

m anxiety, they can practice relaxation techniques that they can use to cope with anxiety instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.Cognitive behavioral therapy is a tool that many people have used to recover from drug and alcohol addiction and to maintain a sober lifestyle over many years. If you or someone you loves struggles with substance abuse, call Blu By The Sea today. Our professional staff is ready to help you