Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was initially used as a relapse-prevention treatment among problem drinkers. Later, a similar process was applied to abusers of cocaine. CBT is based on strategies that draw from the theory that learning processes can be adapted. Changing the maladaptive learning processes that result in drug addiction is one of the primary strategies used in treatment. CBT also addresses the problem behaviors and co-occurring disorders associated with alcohol and drug use.
Basics of CBT
CBT involves identifying thought patterns and recurring emotions and how they affect behavior. The goal is to help patients regain control over their own perception of the world around them, through consciously changing the way that they think and feel towards certain things. Another main goal of CBT is helping patients to anticipate problems that they will face and the coping strategies that they will use to overcome them. With a therapist, a patient suffering from an addiction might identify the positive and negative outcomes of prolonged drug use, self-monitor to recognize cravings, and identify situations and stimuli that might trigger cravings. The patient should come away with knowledge of how to cope with cravings without using drugs and how to avoid potentially risky situations.
Components of CBT Sessions
CBT varies according to the type of addiction and the individual’s needs, goals, and situation. When working one on one with a patient, the therapist tailors the treatment accordingly. CBT may also be delivered in a group therapy setting, where all members of the group learn how to “become their own therapists.” It is especially important for the therapist and patient to work together to set goals, make a treatment plan, and select intervention options. The rapport between patient and therapist should operate with both trust and mutual respect. The therapist helps the patient come up with techniques and strategies in reacting appropriately to unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and ideas. The therapist should also have the patient test out these strategies, reporting on whether they work or do not work in real-life scenarios. The patient must learn how to adapt his or her thoughts when they are dysfunctional or likely to result in problem behavior.
Research on CBT suggests that this form of therapy offers a range of beneficial skills that stay with patients long after the treatment is completed. Current research is being conducted with the goal of making CBT more effective by combining it with other forms of treatment, such as medication and other types of behavioral therapy. One aspect of CBT that is frequently criticized by patients is that it does not necessarily stop negative thoughts or emotions from arising in the first place. Thus, while patients are able to recognize when they have a negative thought or feeling, they may not understand how to overcome them. The goal of CBT is to ensure that patients have the strategies and tools they need to overcome negative thoughts and feelings.