Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) For Addiction
Cognitive behavioural therapy has been used successfully for decades in treating addiction. CBT is a recognised evidence based addiction treatment. As such, the principles of CBT are incorporated into many treatment models that are available today.
CBT has been used for years to treat a wide variety of mental health diagnoses. Ranging from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and addiction.
Many studies have indicated that cognitive behavioural therapy has led to a tremendous improvement in quality of life.
By utilising CBT, those recovering from addiction can work towards truly understanding the thoughts and behaviours that drive the disorder. The use of behavioural therapies can work to shift unhelpful thoughts and manifest a full and healthy recovery.
What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Cognitive behavioural therapy, AKA CBT, is a type of talking behavioural therapy. CBT can be applied on a one-to-one basis or delivered within a group setting.
Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on understanding the thoughts that are creating present reality, rather than delving deep into the past 
The elements of CBT target the nature of our thoughts. Examining how these thoughts affect our feelings and behaviours, and how behaviours affect daily life.
As a talking therapy, CBT can be used as a healthy alternative to addictive painkillers, antidepressants and sedatives. It can also be used in conjunction with pharmaceutical treatments to make them more effective. CBT can also be used to successfully treat other mental health conditions and illnesses.
The Elements of CBT
There are two main elements to CBT - behaviourism and cognition - that come together to form CBT treatment. Behaviourism focuses on what enforces our behaviours, and cognition focuses on our thoughts and emotions. Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on our individual, unique thought processes and how they drive our behaviours. It stands by the idea that our thoughts create our feelings and that these two things affect our actions .
Anyone can suffer from maladaptive thought processes and belief systems, this is exceptionally true for us that suffer from addiction. Thoughts can turn into unhealthy behavioural patterns that create negative coping skills.
By using CBT, we are able to observe our negative thought patterns and consider them. Over time, we can then replace them with healthy thought patterns. This then translates into more neutral or positive emotions as well as healthier behaviours.
CBT treatment works to change unhealthy thoughts at the root. By identifying the root cause of unhealthy thoughts it can help us to see the truth. We can then work towards discarding unhealthy thoughts in favour of more helpful ones. Implementing this process results naturally in a healthier and happier life.
By undergoing CBT we can come to understand that we have the power to choose which thoughts we act on and which we disregard. This can really be beneficial in preventing addiction relapse.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques
CBT counselling treatment utilises a range of techniques that allow automatic thought patterns to become more apparent.
Some of the techniques used in CBT counselling can include:
- goal setting
- learning problem-solving skills
- examining negative thoughts
- imagery-based exposure
- behavioural experiments.
These are only some of the exercises that a therapist may use during cognitive behavioural therapy sessions .
The Origins of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT was developed in the 1960’s by Dr. Aaron T. Beck, after he conducted research on the psychoanalytical model of depression. The psychoanalytic model is another mode of therapy created by Sigmund Freud that explores one’s past and their childhood influences in order to understand the present. However, Dr. Beck found that the results of his research did not confirm the popular psychoanalytic theory of the time.
The doctor decided to explore depression from a different angle, and found that many of his patients struggling with depression had a negative stream of thoughts that informed their disposition and resulting behaviours.
Dr Beck called these notions “automatic thoughts,”. And, after working with many patients to address and shift their automatic thoughts, he found that his patients improved. Patients undergoing CBT therapy were able to change how they viewed themselves and the world. This then enabled them to thrive in society .
Since Dr Beck’s groundbreaking work, CBT has been incorporated into many therapeutic models. CBT’s inclusion in addiction treatment has helped many people regain control of their lives.
How Does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Treat Addiction?
CBT treatment has proven to be incredibly effective in aiding recovery from addiction. In understanding the role of CBT in addiction treatment, it is important to first take a look at addiction and the brain.
Understanding Addiction and The Brain
Ongoing substance abuse has a significant effect on the brain, whereby the mind’s neural pathways become structurally altered. These alterations prompt a cycle of drug-seeking behaviours and negative thought patterns - one reinforcing the other in a vicious cycle.
When we experience an event and feel a negative response towards it, we generally run a sequence of negative thoughts through our mind. This continues to happen over time, and wires our neural pathways to automatically respond in the same negative, and often a debilitating, way.
How CBT Can Heal Addiction and the Brain
The CBT process works in healing the addicted brain by retraining the brain and rewiring neural pathways that have become damaged by continuous substance use and abuse .
Neuroimaging methods have unveiled the specific brain changes that occur when someone is being treated with cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT has been shown to strengthen cognitive control circuitry in the brain. These are varied processes that control emotional processing and decision-making behaviour.
CBT counselling has also been found to have a healing effect on the areas of the brain that allow one to gain control over the compulsion to pursue engaging in addiction related activities .
The changes in brain circuitry that involve better decision-making can have a profound impact on the addiction recovery process and the ability to navigate through experiencing internal and external triggers. Over time, CBT can help to heal the brain from the effects of long-term substance abuse.
Who Needs Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Counselling?
CBT counselling can benefit a wide variety of people on the journey towards recovery, whether someone is seeking help for addiction and is currently using, or someone is in recovery and is working towards achieving greater healing.
CBT in Active Addiction
Utilising CBT counselling during active addiction can provide individuals with motivational and supportive strategies that can contribute to finally eliminating substance use. CBT can help individuals become aware of the negative thought patterns that contribute to negative emotions, and therefore, negative or drug seeking behaviours.
CBT in Recovery from Addiction
During addiction recovery, undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy can help a person to gain confidence and a better understanding of what drives their behaviour. The CBT process can help in developing healthy responses and building problem solving skills. It can also help those in recovery from addiction to regain control over their emotions and regulate their thoughts.
Willingness To Change
An important element regarding the effectiveness of the CBT process is a person's willingness to change. Regardless of where someone is in the recovery process, CBT treatment will bring them to the next level of knowing themselves. The process requires being open minded and willing to observe our own negative thoughts that have been contributing to our own negative behaviours.
Seeking help for addiction with CBT counselling requires a level of vulnerability and openness that is imperative for change and healing to occur.
The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Addiction Recovery
There are many emotional, mental, and behavioural benefits to applying cognitive behavioural therapy techniques in the addiction recovery process. It can help guide and heal throughout a person's individual recovery, regardless of how long they have been engaging in substance abuse or how long they have been in recovery.
The Benefits of CBT in Treating Addiction:
- CBT is effective without the use of psychotropic medications with addictive potential
- Provides effective counselling for addiction in the short term as improvements can occur in as little as 5 sessions
- Cognitive behavioural therapy assists in developing self-help tools to improve mood and regulate emotions
- Assists in dispelling negative beliefs about oneself, encouraging self-worth
- Helps develop awareness of a person's unique internal and external triggers
- Helps to deal with triggers in a healthy way
- Can be effectively delivered as a form of counselling for addiction in person or online
- CBT can help with process addictions such as sex addiction and gambling
- CBT is a hands on, structured, and action-focused form of addiction treatment
- It is a cost-effective form of counselling for addiction when compared to other more expensive forms of therapy 
Finding A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Therapist Near Me
When looking for a local CBT counsellor, it’s important to find a therapist that is qualified in delivering CBT. It is also helpful if they have experience in treating addiction, or, whatever area you are struggling with in life (ie, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, relationships or trauma)
If you are seeking free CBT therapy on the NHS, your doctor will be your first port of call. They can refer you to the local counselling waiting list. Most areas' waiting times are within the region of 6-8 weeks.
If you are still trying to find your way into recovery from addiction, you can self-refer to your local drug and alcohol team for free support and a counselling referral.
Our Wellness hub brings together a number of professionals who specialise in changing thought processes and assisting in the healing process. Here, you can access mindfulness, mindset coaching, breath work, meditation, nutrition and more.
People from all walks of life can find the process of counselling extremely beneficial. CBT really can be a great way of learning everyday coping skills to help live a balanced and healthy lifestyle in recovery from addiction.
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- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Substance Abuse and Addiction: https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-for-addiction-21953
- A THERAPIST’S GUIDE TO BRIEF COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY https://depts.washington.edu/dbpeds/therapists_guide_to_brief_cbtmanual.pdf
- Brain mechanisms of Change in Addictions Treatment: Models, Methods, and Emerging Findings https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5155705/
- Access to [psychological therapies: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/access-to-psychological-therapies-campaign
- Cognitive behavioral therapy - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279297/