Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT, which stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is a form of therapy that has been found to be hugely successful in the treatment of addiction. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps individuals to identify and change dysfunctional beliefs and behaviours. It is often used in conjunction with other treatments such as medication and rehabilitation but can also be used independently as a way of maintaining sobriety after rehab.

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy which is used to address a number of psychological, mental and emotional conditions. You work with a therapist or mental health counsellor who helps you to manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

The theory behind CBT is that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all connected and that negative thoughts and behaviours can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to break this cycle by helping you to change the way you think and behave.

The main aims of CBT are to:

  • Teach you how to identify and challenge negative thoughts and behaviours.
  • Help you to develop more positive coping mechanisms.
  • Help you to manage your emotions in a more constructive way.

How does CBT help recovery?

CBT for addiction is very useful because it has a goals-based approach. When you are suffering from addiction, it isn’t always easy to see the improvement you are making as your ability to self-reflect can be clouded by your condition. CBT deals with this by providing measurable goals that can be achieved and recognised. Every successfully completed goal provides motivation to achieve the next goal on the list, helping you to grow stronger in your resolve as you work through the process.

CBT for addiction complements other addiction therapies and treatments because it works to address the negative thoughts and behaviours that are associated with addiction. While the other treatments work on other aspects such as detoxification, withdrawal management, and developing a support network, CBT works to help you develop the skills you need to stay sober for life.

How CBT for drug addiction and alcoholism works

CBT has been found to be an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health problems, including addiction. It is thought to be particularly effective in the treatment of addiction because it helps you to identify and change the negative thoughts and behaviours that are associated with your addiction.

CBT for alcohol addiction and drug addiction is based on a six-phase model:

During this phase, you and your therapist will work together to assess the scope of your addiction. Your therapist will ask in-depth questions about your addiction and your thoughts and feelings around it. This will enable them to get a better understanding of how the condition affects your thinking and the way you behave. If you are not able to participate as thoroughly as necessary, a psychological assessment may be given.
The reconceptualisation phase is when you are taught to think in a different way based on new concepts of understanding. For example, a person suffering from an eating disorder might be led to create a new concept of body image, redefining what is and is not acceptable. That new body image would help diminish the compulsions related to the disorder.
Skills Acquisition
This third phase of CBT will teach you new skills so that you can avoid returning to past behaviours. These skills may be coping skills, avoidance strategies, or both.
Application training
After skills acquisition, you will move on to application training. This is when you have the opportunity to practice your acquired skills in a controlled environment with your therapist leading you through a series of exercises.
Generalisation and maintenance
The fifth phase of treatment involves a more general application of acquired skills and continued maintenance of those skills through additional counselling and practice.
Post-treatment follow-up
The sixth phase involves a follow-up assessment that actually takes place after your stay in rehab is over. The purpose of this follow-up is to make sure that you are successfully using your new coping skills and avoidance strategies.

CBT for addiction in practice

CBT is a very practical form of therapy and can be used in several different ways. The most common types of CBT used in addiction treatment are:

Cognitive restructuring

This is when you work with your therapist to identify the negative thoughts and behaviours that are associated with your addiction. For example, a person suffering from alcoholism might believe that they need to drink in order to have fun. Once that negative thought is identified, the therapist will work with the patient to restructure it into a more positive thought. In this example, the new thought might be “I can have fun without drinking”.

Behavioural experiments

This is when you and your therapist will test out different thoughts and behaviours to see how they affect your addiction. For example, if you believe that you need certain substances in order to relax, you and your therapist might conduct an experiment where you try different relaxation techniques while abstaining from those substances. If you find that the relaxation techniques work just as well as taking the substances, then your negative thoughts will be debunked and replaced with more positive ones.

Exposure therapy

This is when you work with your therapist to gradually expose yourself to the situations and triggers that you associate with your addiction. For example, if you are addicted to shopping, you might start with exposure therapy by going to the shops but not buying anything. This exposure will gradually get more intense as you work through the process but will help you to develop the skills you need to cope with triggers.

If you want to find out more about how CBT for addiction is used in UKAT recovery programmes, get in touch with us today.

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Frequently asked questions

Where can I get access to CBT in UKAT centres?
UKAT provides CBT for addiction in many of our rehab centres across the UK as part of our addiction treatment programmes. Get in touch with us today and our admissions team can help you find the perfect rehab centre for your addiction treatment based on your personal needs, where you are located and the facilities that you are looking for.
Can I also get access to CBT as an outpatient?
While you may be able to undergo CBT as an outpatient, addiction treatment is best done in an inpatient setting because it removes you from the triggers and temptations of your everyday life. Addiction treatment requires an immersive recovery environment where you are away from these negative things as this gives you the best chance to focus on getting better without any distractions.
Is CBT a one-to-one or group therapy?
CBT is typically done as a one-to-one therapy but can occasionally also be done in group settings. The reason why CBT is usually offered as one-to-one therapy is that it is a very practical form of therapy that requires the full attention of the therapist. They must be able to tailor the therapy to your specific needs and thoughts in order to be effective.