Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Addiction

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 16th, 2022

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a kind of talking/counselling therapy with roots dating back to the early 1920s. In its original form, it was known simply as ‘behavioural therapy’ and was applied to helping children who were dealing with abnormal and irrational fears. Behavioural therapy was combined with cognitive therapy in the 1960s to create what we now know as CBT.UKAT recommends and utilises CBT as a treatment for a number of emotional and mental health behavioural problems. Our drug rehab and alcohol rehab clinics use it as part of an holistic treatment programme. While the therapy does not necessarily work for everyone to the same degree, CBT has proven very useful in helping to treat the mental and emotional aspects of compulsive behaviours and certain distinct mental illnesses.

CBT is a short-term, goals-oriented therapy that seeks to bring treatment to a conclusion rather than making it open-ended. For example, some forms of ongoing mental health counselling are established without any end date or measurable objective in mind. Counselling continues for as long as the therapist and patient believe it needs to. CBT is different. It is based on a series of objectives the counsellor and patient work through from one session to the next. Once all goals are accomplished, the therapy is complete. In most cases, 12 to 15 sessions is all that is necessary to complete all of the desired objectives.

The Basics of CBT

CBT is currently used as a treatment for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and other types of behavioural illnesses. However, one does not have to suffer from a mental health issue to benefit from this therapy. CBT can effectively help almost anyone learn to better manage stress and anxiety. It is built on a six-phase model as follows:

    • Assessment – Therapist and patient work together to assess the scope of the problem being treated. The therapist will ask in-depth questions with the expectation that the patient will be as open and honest as possible. In cases where the patient is not able to participate as thoroughly as necessary, a psychological assessment may be used instead.
    • Reconceptualisation – The reconceptualisation phase consists of teaching the patient to think 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 involves teaching patients new skills they need to have that will enable them to avoid returning to past behaviours. These may be coping skills, avoidance strategies, or both.
    • Application Training – Following skills acquisition is application training. In other words, patients need the opportunity to practice their acquired skills in a controlled environment. Therapists lead their patients through a series of exercises that provide that practice.
    • 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 practise.
    • Post-Treatment Follow-Up – The sixth phase involves a follow-up assessment that actually takes place after treatment has been completed. The purpose of this follow-up is to make sure that the patient is managing with the learned coping skills and avoidance strategies.


The strength of cognitive behavioural therapy is its goals-oriented approach. It can be devastating to people suffering from various mental and behavioural issues to find themselves in a place of not knowing whether they are actually improving or not. CBT avoids that devastation by providing measurable goals that can be achieved and recognised. Every successfully completed goal provides motivation to achieve the next goal on the list. Patients grow stronger in their resolve and hope as they work through the process.

Best Use of CBT

Rarely is cognitive behavioural therapy a sufficient therapy by itself. In fact, it is best utilised when it is combined with other addiction counselling therapies and, where necessary, medications. The holistic approach to the treatment we practice at UKAT takes this into account. One of our clients may undergo CBT as a primary means of treatment but also participate in group counselling, support group participation, or even art and music therapy.

Another significant benefit of this therapy is that there are very few risks attached. CBT itself does not involve the use of prescription medications; it is obviously not physically invasive; it does not further endanger mental health by creating circumstances that would make the patient’s condition worse. CBT is guided by individual need every step of the way.

Having said that, some forms of CBT may expose the patient to uncomfortable situations that create anxiety or stress. For example, the patient may be challenged to confront a particular fear that tends to be overwhelming. Such confrontations can be emotionally stressful. For this reason, CBT should only be conducted by trained professionals who know what they are doing.

Finding the Right Fit Therapy for You

We assume you are visiting our website because you are concerned about yourself or a loved one. We want you to rest in the knowledge that UKAT is here to assist you in your endeavour to find a solution. There is an appropriate treatment programme and therapy regimen available regardless of the issue you or your loved one is going through. Our job is to make sure you get access to it.

UKAT counsellors are trained to conduct initial assessments to help new clients figure out where they are and what their problems entail. From that initial consultation, it is possible to establish a baseline from which to proceed. We can then recommend various treatments whether a client is suffering from addiction, compulsive behaviour, or one of the mental illnesses we treat.

Please understand that we genuinely care about your health and well-being. Unlike what you may have experienced elsewhere, the UKAT staff always goes the extra mile to make sure clients are served appropriately. If you don’t have every opportunity to get well by way of professional treatment, we have not done our job.

Contact us right away if you or a loved one needs help. We want to get treatment started as quickly as possible, knowing that doing so offers the greatest chances of recovery.

Our brand promise

If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*

* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

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