There are certain types of therapies that work particularly well with addiction. For this reason, they are often used in addiction treatment centers and rehab facilities. With recovery from addiction, it’s not enough to get sober. A person needs to also uncover the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have contributed to addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that explores just that – the connections between the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that a person has. Through helping a person uncover these connections within themselves, they can make better, healthier choices.
The goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), when it’s used to treat addiction, is to help a person understand how negative and distorted thinking patterns might have contributed to addictive and compulsive behavior. For instance, let’s say a person continues to believe that they are unlovable. They might be in a relationship but that relationship might be unhealthy and even harmful. The thinking pattern of believing in being unlovable, the uncomfortable feelings that show up as a result, and the stressful relationship might lead a person to drink or use drugs. They might feel that when they are drinking they are more loveable or more attractive or more accepting. Of course, this is just an example. But you can see how one’s thoughts and feelings might contribute to the desire to use substances.
What makes CBT so effective is that it not only helps a person make the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, but it also helps a person identify negative and self-harming thoughts. By using a tool called the Thought Diary, a person writes out his or her thoughts in a situation that might have been troubling. Then, he or she writes out the associated feelings as well as any associated behaviors. By identifying thoughts, a person then has the opportunity to change them.
When it comes to recovery from addiction, CBT can be helpful in other ways too. First, a CBT therapist often provides healthier coping mechanisms to help a person manage challenging emotions, triggering life circumstances, and stress. Those new coping tools can be used to take the place of old methods of coping that may have only added to the need to use substances. Second, CBT can also enhance the effectiveness of any treatment medication that a recovering addict might be prescribed. Third, CBT can help with the ambivalence that an individual who is new in recovery might experience. Ambivalence is the experience of feeling two opposing emotions at the same time. A person might want to get sober but at the same time may not because of the benefits they get out of drinking or using drugs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can find those thoughts that exacerbate the ambivalence and replace it with a healthier thought. In general, CBT is a highly effective modality for transforming unhealthy thinking into thoughts that are healing, healthy, and whole.
If you’re in recovery and you would like to explore whether CBT might be useful for you, look for a CBT therapist in your neighborhood. You may also determine if you can participate in a therapy group in which CBT is used. You can always call a mental health provider in your community and ask about the therapeutic benefits of CBT.
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