Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Addiction Treatment Gives Power to the Patient

Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Addiction Treatment Gives Power to the Patient

The premise of cognitive behavior therapy toward drug and alcohol addiction lies inside the mind. Unlike other forms of therapy, this type builds around the concept that a person’s behaviors are directly linked to their thoughts and not other forces, like life situations or relationships. Cognitive behavior therapy can be empowering to people with drug and alcohol addictions because it allows the power for change to rest within the patient, rather than things they cannot control.

Therapists who specialize in cognitive behavior therapy can guide patients toward understanding and recognizing the circumstances that could trigger the use of drugs or alcohol, and teach new ways to cope with the situations that cause drug abuse. Avoidance is also a key characteristic of cognitive behavior therapy, with the goal of teaching patients ways to avoid stressors that make a resurgence of drug or alcohol use likely.

Several types of cognitive behavior therapy are commonly used for addiction cases, as recognized by the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. These types of treatment include dialectic behavior therapy, rational living and rational behavior therapy, or rational emotive behavior therapy. At the core of all the approaches remains the emphasis on helping the patient understand ways their addiction is triggered, and replacing the unwanted behaviors with new strategies for coping.

A functional analysis is usually performed, in which the therapist helps the addict explore their feelings and thoughts both prior to drug or alcohol use, and afterward. As treatment progresses, the style allows for acknowledgement that effective coping strategies for stressors may never have been learned by the patient, or have been forgotten. Therapists can also model a positive conversation or reaction to a stressor as they are encouraging the formation of new skill sets for coping without drugs.

When the therapy is structured and goal-oriented, results can be achieved in a relatively short timespan, such as three to four months of visiting weekly. The style of therapy has been extensively evaluated, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with more than 20 documented controlled trial tests. Overall, experts suggest cognitive behavior therapy is most successful when it is performed in conjunction with other types of recovery strategies, like group support sessions.

The treatment is also flexible, with room for the therapist to adapt strategies for the individual patient’s needs. It can be performed in a residential treatment setting or on an outpatient basis. In some cases, a decisional analysis can be effective, in which the patient explores the advantages and disadvantages to stopping their addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be adapted to a group setting, if the sessions can be extended in length and the therapist can encourage the group to participate actively. Discussions can involve things patients are trying that work or don’t work in their recovery, thus building their confidence and creating an attitude of support.

While cognitive behavioral therapy has been tested across a range of drug addictions, it is typically not suggested for patients with psychotic disorders, who are not medically sound or who have bipolar disorder.

Because cognitive behavioral therapy can be personalized, performed within a relatively short timespan, and practiced by the patient long after sessions have concluded, it remains one of the most widely evaluated and used forms for drug and alcohol addiction strategies.

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