Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Explained

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is designed to help patients change unhealthy behavioural thought patterns. It is founded on the belief that psychological problems are linked to negative thinking and learned patterns of behaviour. CBT provides a solutions-based framework for patients seeking to change these ingrained patterns.

While CBT is usually used to treat anxiety and depression, studies suggest that it’s also effective for people struggling with addiction. Many factors, ranging from pre-existing mental health conditions to access to substances, increase the risk of addiction, and CBT helps patients identify these triggers and devise effective coping strategies.

Why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Works

Cognitive behavioural therapy works because it gives people practical ways to adjust their thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Through CBT treatment, people develop psychological tools that reduce the risk of substance misuse. They may learn to identify dysfunctional modes of thinking, distract themselves when cravings arise and make healthy lifestyle changes.
CBT helps addicts deal with sobriety-undermining risk factors, such as permission-giving thought patterns and social situations that encourage substance use. Versatility is another reason why CBT works. Treatment plans can be customised to each patient’s behavioural patterns and readiness for change.

When to go for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

People struggling with addiction should consider cognitive behavioural therapy when they’re ready to make a lifestyle change. Before individuals can make a change, however, they must acknowledge their problem. Common signs of addiction include increased tolerance, frequent cravings, physical dependence and loss of control. These symptoms of addiction are supported by unhealthy patterns of thought and behaviour. CBT helps addicts recognise these patterns and implement new habits.

The most effective treatment plans account for the patient’s willingness to change, proceeding slowly for ambivalent individuals and more quickly for people committed to the treatment. Even patients who deny they have a problem can benefit from CBT, as long as therapists tailor treatment plans the patients’ level of engagement.

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What Happens During Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

During cognitive behavioural therapy, patients learn to identify their biggest addiction risk factors and develop attitudes and skills that counteract them. The primary risk factors for addiction leave individuals psychologically vulnerable to substance misuse. Some people are most vulnerable in high-risk situations, like social functions held at bars, while others are most vulnerable to rituals, like the glass of wine they drink every night.

Once patients identify their vulnerabilities, they develop strategies to use when confronted with their risk factors. Therapists may also prescribe supplemental treatments; meditation can help individuals develop habit-breaking mindfulness, and group meetings can give addicts a strong support network.

The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

It’s common for people who struggle with addiction to relapse. Cognitive behavioural therapy emphasises long-term maintenance, and this is one of its primary benefits for addicts. It offers patients an actionable plan of attack, which can help them achieve sobriety in the short term and help them avoid relapses in the future.

Ideally, CBT treatment enhances the patient’s feelings of self-efficacy, or their belief in their own abilities. As awareness

of self-efficacy increases, many individuals have an easier time establishing healthy habits and thought patterns. In this way, CBT is a self-reinforcing system that can help addicts stay sober on a long-term basis.

The Role of Counseling in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy for addiction is usually provided by counsellors and other mental health professionals. When individuals begin treatment, counsellors assess their needs and determine how often they should attend therapy. Many therapists recommend weekly or bi-weekly sessions, which usually last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Over the course of the treatment, counsellors help patients assess their problems and break those problems into small, manageable components. Once these problems are analysed, counsellors and patients work together to devise practical solutions. Eventually, the patient should be able to implement these solutions in their daily life.

Facts and Statistics About Cognitive-Behavior Therapy

Here are just a few facts and figures to help those struggling with addiction decide if CBT might be right for them.

  • CBT is usually conducted over the course of 5 to 20 sessions (6 weeks to 6 months or longer), depending on the severity of the issues
  • One study found that 46% of CBT patients reported symptoms improving by at least 50%
  • CBT was the most common high-intensity treatment in the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme over 2016-2017

Cognitive behavioural therapy is considered by many experts in the field to be the “gold standard” of psychotherapy. CBT has received more research attention than any other form of psychotherapy, and this research suggests that it’s the most systematically effective form currently available. While there are many ways to treat addiction, CBT may be the most effective therapeutic treatment option. A study published in the Psychiatric Clinic of North America journal concluded that when CBT is used to treat addiction, it is effective when used by itself and when used in conjunction with other treatments.

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