Can cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treat addiction?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can be used to help treat substance use disorders. CBT is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, phobias, and other mental disorders, but it has also proven valuable in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. This is especially true when it is part of the overall recovery plan.

CBT helps people learn to better recognize negative and self-frustrated thoughts and behaviors that can lead to substance use. This is a short-term, intensive treatment method that can help drug-dependent people to get rid of drugs.

CBT uses the same learning process that initially led to the development of alcohol and drug dependence to help people get rid of maladaptive behaviors.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the view that feelings and behaviors are caused by a person’s thoughts, not by external stimuli such as people, situations, and events. Although you may not be able to change your environment, you can change your perception of them. According to a cognitive behavioral therapist, this can help you change how you feel and behave.

In the treatment of alcohol and drug dependence, CBT can help a person:

  • Improve self-control
  • Identify the situations in which they are most likely to drink or take drugs
  • If possible, avoid trigger situations
  • Develop coping strategies that will help them when faced with a situation that triggers cravings
  • Deal with other issues and behaviors that may cause them to abuse drugs

The main goals of CBT for drug abuse treatment are to improve motivation, learn new coping skills, change old habits, and learn to better manage painful feelings.

Types of CBT

There are several methods of CBT. This includes:

How it works

When used to treat alcohol and drug dependence, CBT has two main components: functional analysis and skills training.

Functional Analysis

Functional analysis is a process in CBT that involves looking at the causes and consequences of behavior. The therapist and the individual work together to determine the thoughts, feelings, and conditions that lead to and follow the drinking or use of alcohol. This helps determine the risk of possible recurrence.

During the functional analysis, the therapist may ask personal questions to gain insight into a person’s thoughts or feelings before the behavior. They may ask the customer to recall the last time they used a certain substance, and then ask:

  • What were you doing before using this substance?
  • how do you feel?
  • What happened just now?
  • Has anything positive happened due to this behavior?
  • What are the negative effects of your behavior?

Functional analysis can also first gain insight into the reasons for their drinking or drug use. People may check the situation, emotions, and thoughts that play a role in drug or alcohol abuse. This helps to identify situations where the person has difficulty coping.

By better understanding the difficulties that lead to substance use, people can find ways to better manage difficult thoughts, emotions, or situations.

Skills Training

When people are struggling with difficulties, life stress, trauma, anxiety, depression or other problems, they sometimes turn to substances or alcohol as a management method. If someone is at a point where they need professional treatment for their addiction, then they are probably using alcohol or drugs as the primary means of solving the problem.

The goal of CBT is to free people from maladaptive behaviors and learn or relearn better coping skills. By learning these skills, they can start working hard to apply them to situations that usually trigger drug or alcohol abuse. Skill training is provided by:

  • Help individuals to get rid of old habits and learn to develop healthier skills and habits
  • Educate people on how to change their perceptions of drug abuse
  • Learn new ways to deal with situations and situations that have caused them to drink or take drugs in the past

Another aspect of skill training is to help people learn to tolerate painful feelings better. In this way, people can manage their anxiety or depression in a positive way, instead of turning to drug abuse for quick resolution.

Replacing old habits that lead to substance use with more active and lasting actions can enhance a person’s ability to function and contribute to long-term recovery.

Benefits of CBT for addiction

People with substance or alcohol use disorders may often struggle with negative emotions or thoughts, which makes recovery more difficult. Since CBT focuses on identifying such thinking patterns and replacing them with more adaptive thinking patterns, it can help improve a person’s prospects and support skills that support long-term recovery.

Some of the ways that CBT can be beneficial for addicts include:

  • Learn to recognize self-destructive thoughts and behaviors
  • Find ways to monitor this type of mindset
  • Learn new and more adaptive ways of thinking
  • Apply skills learned in new situations and environments
  • Explore new ways to deal with stress and difficulties

Research shows that the skills acquired through CBT are long-lasting and can also be applied to other areas of personal life. Approximately 60% of people receiving cognitive behavioral therapy for drug abuse problems can maintain a year of recovery.

How long will the treatment take?

Because cognitive behavioral therapy is a structured, goal-oriented educational process that focuses on the immediate problem, this process is usually short-term. Although other forms of treatment may be long-term and have no time limit, CBT is usually completed in 12 to 16 sessions with the therapist.


Studies have shown that CBT can effectively treat substance use disorders, whether used alone or in combination with other treatment strategies. CBT usually involves many different interventions—such as operational learning strategies, skill development, and motivational factors—that can be used alone or in combination.

CBT is one of the most studied forms of treatment, so there is a lot of evidence and support for its use in various mental illnesses, including alcohol and substance use disorders. Over 53 randomized controlled trials on alcohol and drug abuse were examined to evaluate the results of CBT treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly evaluated psychosocial methods for the treatment of substance use disorders.

In these studies, CBT proved to be the most effective compared to no other treatment at all. Compared with other treatments, the results of the study are mixed. Some people show that CBT is more effective, while others show that it has the same but not greater effectiveness than other treatments.

As with other treatments for alcoholism and drug abuse (including drug therapy), cognitive behavioral therapy works best when combined with other rehabilitation efforts. This includes participation in support groups such as Anonymous Alcoholics or Anonymous Drug Abuses.

In short, cognitive behavioral therapy works for some people, but not everyone. This is true for all alcohol and drug treatment methods, because everyone handles and recovers from addiction in a different way.

Very good sentence

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective option for treating alcohol and substance use disorders. It can be used alone or in combination with other methods to support a person’s long-term recovery. However, this is not the only option, so please discuss the available methods with your doctor to determine which method is best for your needs.