How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Can Help Break the Substance Abuse Cycle

Posted by  Soribel Martinez, LCSW

CBT is one of the most common types of talk therapies. It’s used to treat depression, anxiety, and a variety of additional mental health disorders. But, it’s also a great tool for substance abuse treatment, especially when it’s one component of a recovery strategy or bigger treatment program. 

The biggest benefit of CBT as it pertains to substance abuse is that it allows you to identify certain things. You’ll be able to see your own negative patterns and what might fuel them. As a result, you can start to take control over those thoughts and patterns, and eventually break the cycle. 

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how cognitive-behavioral therapy can really help with substance abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs or alcohol, it could be a perfect solution. 

What is the Purpose of CBT?

CBT focuses on your thoughts rather than outside triggers. You can’t change the world around you, but you can change how you respond to things. When you start to think that way, you’ll be able to take your thoughts captive and feel more in control. 

When you’re using CBT to help with substance abuse, you can expect to change your old habits and replace them with new ones. You’ll learn skills like improving self-control and how to cope with difficult situations. 

Instead of avoiding or ignoring triggers, CBT will teach you the skills needed to handle them. Again, you can’t change the world around you. In many cases, you won’t be able to change your circumstances. But cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you see that you have control of your choices. When you’re faced with situations that trigger cravings, CBT will offer you the skills to get through them.  

Perhaps the most important purpose of CBT when it comes to substance abuse recovery is motivation. Relapsing is a common problem among those struggling with substance abuse and addiction. CBT can give you the motivation to remain in control. As a result, you’re less likely to “fall off the wagon” and more likely to develop lifelong habit changes. 

Understanding the Process

Still not sure if CBT is right for you? It can help if you know what to expect. 

The process of cognitive-behavioral therapy for substance abuse will focus on functional analysis and skills training. 

Functional analysis is like digging up data. It’s meant to help you find the connection between your thoughts and behaviors. A therapist might ask you things like: 

  • What happened right before you used the substance?
  • Who were you with?
  • How did you feel before/during/after?

By looking into situations and emotions, you’ll be able to better understand the underlying reason(s) for your substance abuse. You’ll also be able to determine where your weak spots are when it comes to coping. 

That’s where skills training comes in. Skills training is often used as a “rewiring” of your thought process so you can change your old habits. As a result, you can replace those habits with new, healthy ones. You’ll also learn how to cope with even the most triggering situations, so you’ll remain in control of your behaviors. 

Is CBT Right for You?

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, consider CBT. It’s one of the best ways to identify negative thought patterns and how they relate to substance use. Once those patterns are identified, you’ll be able to learn new ways of thinking that are adaptable to the most stressful situations. So, you’ll be able to handle triggers and trying times without falling off the wagon. 

Feel free to contact me for more information about CBT, or if you’re in need of help to break the substance abuse cycle.

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