When discussing treatment approaches for substance use disorders (SUDs), therapy is a common option. Therapy is often used in conjunction with pharmacotherapy (medication). Many people do not realize there are many different types of therapy that can help individuals recovering from an SUD.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the more common types of therapy used to help those overcoming substance misuse. Since its creation in the 1960s, the American Psychology Association (APA) says CBT has been found to be effective in treating several behavioral health disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, mental illness, and SUDs related to alcohol and drugs.

CBT’s main strategy is to change negative thought patterns to influence behavior. By changing the way an individual thinks, they can overcome thoughts of substance use and, in turn, adopt a healthier way of coping.

The APA says CBT was developed on several principal ideas, which include:

  1. Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
  2. Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  3. People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.

A study reviewing 30 other academic studies found that CBT combined with pharmacotherapy had an increased benefit for patients struggling with alcohol, cocaine, and opioid use compared to usual clinical management or non-specialized counseling. However, the study found CBT did not perform better than another specific type of therapy. The analysis of these 30 studies supported the idea that CBT and pharmacotherapy can be considered one of the best practices in SUD treatment.

So, how do you change the negative thought patterns that influence your behavior? That’s where a cognitive behavioral therapist comes in. A CBT specialist can help you become more aware of the consequences of your negative thoughts and actions that influence a SUD. The goal of becoming more aware of your mind is to adopt healthier coping mechanisms that break the detrimental cycle of substance use.

American Addiction Centers says you can expect your cognitive behavioral therapist to educate you on your diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. During your CBT session, you will voice your negative thoughts, behavior, and stressors. Your therapist will then challenge these beliefs and integrate healthy, positive coping skills.

Some common skills learned in CBT include:

  • Distracting yourself from negative thoughts with productive activities such as drawing, cleaning, exercising, etc.
  • Learning how to navigate situations that hinder your recovery such as declining a drink at a party
  • Adopting healthier, more effective strategies to relieve feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Building a sense of self-confidence and self-respect
  • Using effective problem-solving strategies
  • Recognizing and conquering triggers that may contribute to relapse

Because CBT is personalized to cater an individual’s needs, coping mechanisms and skills learned to prevent relapse can vary.

Recovery may seem like an uphill battle, but with the right tools, you can overcome an SUD. By conquering negative thoughts and replacing them with healthy behaviors, CBT can reprogram your mind to help you live a happier, healthier life.

Not sure where to start? We can help. To find SUD treatment near you, visit the Treatment Connection website today.

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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material (collectively, “Information”) contained on this blog post are for informational purposes only. None of the Information is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog post.