Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a research-proven treatment approach. CBT for addiction is a therapy modality frequently used for individuals struggling with substance abuse and alcoholism. This evidence-based therapy is an effective way for individuals to become abstinent. For this reason, cognitive behavioral therapy for drug addiction and alcoholism is an important part of the integrated treatment model (ITM) at DARA.
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves both how someone thinks, and the connection to the way they react and behave. The CBT techniques for addiction that are learned and practiced at DARA during residential treatment are an extremely important part of a client’s relapse plan.
Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Drug Addiction
Cognitive behavioral therapy for drug addiction and alcoholism is a way for an individual to understand, and change, two important things:
- How they think about themselves, the world, and other people
- That how they act affects their thoughts and feelings
CBT helps someone change how they think (the cognitive aspect) and what they do (the behavior aspect). These changes can help someone feel better. Unlike some other types of talk therapy, CBT concentrates on the immediate “here and now” problems and difficulties. Instead of focusing on the causes of distress or other physical and emotional symptoms in the past, this approach looks for ways to improve the current state of mind.
CBT for addiction is particularly helpful for those with a drug or alcohol issues combined with co-occurring issues including:
- Social phobia
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
DARA’s certified counselors have specialized training in CBT. CBT for addiction is used in conjunction with other modalities in a highly individualized care plan created for the client.
How Does CBT for Addiction Work?
CBT for addiction focuses on helping clients:
- Recognize the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs and alcohol
- Avoid these situations when appropriate
- Cope ore effectively with a range of problems and problematic behaviors that are associated with substance abuse
CBT techniques for addiction at DARA help the client make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable parts. This makes it easier to see how the parts are connected, and how they affect an individual on a very personal level.
The situation is the first part that is considered. A situation may be a problem, an event, or a difficult situation. After the situation is identified, the thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions are examined. Each of these five areas are closely connected, and affect the others to varying degrees. For example, a problem can affect how someone things or feels. It can also affect the action that can be taken.
CBT Techniques for Addiction at DARA
When a client comes to DARA they may feel nervous or apprehensive. These feelings of anxiety are common during the detox and in the early stages of treatment. CBT for addiction is initiated in this way:
- The primary therapist will evaluate a patient to makes sure that cognitive behavioral therapy is an appropriate choice, and will discuss this approach with the client, to makes sure that they are comfortable using CBT
- The client will determine what specific issues they want to deal with in the short, middle, and long-term
- The client and therapist will agree on a care plan that addresses these goals and issues
The cognitive behavioral therapy program at DARA is implemented in a group setting. During group therapy client will meet with a therapist and their CBT core group five days a week for CBT techniques for addiction. Each group session lasts 90 minutes.
Although CBT concentrates on the here and now, at times clients may need to talk about the past in order to understand how it affects the present. DARA’s therapists will talk to the client about the client’s life and background, to help guide them, and maximize CBT techniques. The CBT core program is a rolling program, meaning that as clients move through residential treatment, other clients are just beginning. The CBT group is a dynamic one, and adapts to it’s the members’ needs. Each person will focus on their own personal areas of life and substance abuse history, while at the same time providing support to other group members.
With the therapist and group, the client will break down each problem into its separate parts of components. To facilitate this process, the therapist guiding the group may ask the client to keep a diary. This active process of writing helps clarify personal patterns of thoughts, emotions, bodily feelings and actions.
Along with the therapist, the client will look at their thoughts, feelings and behaviors in order to:
- Identify whether they are realistic or unhelpful to the problem being worked on
- If there is a positive or negative relationship between the thoughts, behaviors, and actions
- Decide ways to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors
While it is easy to talk about doing something, it is often much harder to move into action. Therefore, after a client has identified what they can change, clients are given exercises to put into action in between group and individual therapy sessions. These will be actions and behaviors that can be put into effect in everyday life. Depending on the situation, a client may be asked to:
- Question a self-critical or upsetting thought and replace it with a positive (or more realistic) one
- Recognize that something is about to be done worsen feelings, and change the action to something that is more helpful
At the next group session, each member will discuss how personal practice sessions went, and the group provides feedback and suggestions if one of the tasks seems too difficult, or doesn’t seem to be working. There are many types of “homework” exercise that are assigned, but CBT therapists at DARA tailor then specifically to the individual and their unique needs and problems.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for drug addiction is a powerful method because the client continues to practice and develop skills in-between group sessions. This is true for both residential therapy, and in other levels of care. Ongoing development of personalized skills makes it less likely that a person’s symptoms or problems will return.
How effective is CBT?
- It is the most effective treatment for conditions where anxiety, anger or depression is the main problem
- It is the most effective psychological treatment for moderate and severe depression
- It is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression
- It is the most effective treatment for drug and alcohol abuse
Important Things to Remember When Beginning CBT for Addictions
Remember that just as with all aspects of recovery from an addiction, the early stages are particularly challenging. The DARA therapists and staff are here to support each throughout their residential stay. Please keep the following in mind when beginning CBT:
- If someone is feeling low and is having difficulty concentrating, it can be difficult, at first, to get the hang of CBT, just as it is with any counseling or psychotherapy.
- This initial difficulty may cause disappointment, or feeling overwhelmed, but our therapists are very skilled in pacing each client’s sessions so that they are able to cope with the work they are trying to do.
- DARA’s therapists understand that it can sometimes be difficult to talk about feelings of depression, anxiety, shame or anger, and will support each client through this in a respectful and non-judgmental manner.
- Each CBT therapist is dedicated to bringing the client through the challenging CBT process, providing guidance and support as the client makes the important decisions that will support recovery.