The decision to enter an addiction recovery program requires an understanding of the treatment options that may be available. When you or your loved one is entering a program with cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, it is important to understand how the treatment works and why it may help you or your loved one reach your recovery goals.

How CBT Works

Before determining if CBT is appropriate for your recovery goals or the goals of your loved one, recognizing how it works is essential. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you or your loved one to identify and correct behaviors that are dangerous, maladaptive or bad for your health.

The first step of correcting your behavior is identifying what it is and why you behave in that manner. In the case of substance abuse, the behavior is already obvious. It is the cause of the behavior that the treatment strives to identify.

Potential causes of substance abuse may include:

  • Trauma in the past
  • Mental health disorders like depression or anxiety
  • Peer pressure
  • Learning from family or learned behaviors
  • Personal belief system

Since every individual is different, a cognitive treatment will focus on identifying the reason that substance abuse developed and then work from that cause to correct and change thought processes that contribute to the addiction.

Correcting Behaviors

The process of correcting your behavior or the actions of your loved one will vary based on the reason that substance abuse began. For an individual who went through a traumatic experience, the goal is to help reduce the impact of that experience and change his or her thought processes regarding the trauma so that it is possible to move forward.

The individual who learned substance abuse from a parent or started when a substance was provided by a friend may need to focus on changing the thinking processes regarding the substance.

The key to correcting behaviors is recognizing why the behaviors are taking place. When you know the thought processes that are contributing to substance abuse, you can then start changing the thinking patterns through repetition, education and alternative stress-reduction strategies.

Conscious Actions

The factor that makes cognitive behavioral therapy useful in addiction treatment is that it focuses on changing subconscious thinking patterns into conscious actions and behaviors. You or your loved one may not recognize that there are subconscious thoughts, emotions and beliefs that are contributing to substance abuse.

When you start working on consciously changing your belief systems, it is then possible to see a reduction in your self-destructive behavior patterns.

The development of an addiction takes place when you become habituated to the behavior. You may subconsciously assume that substance abuse is safe or that it is possible to give up the drug at any time.

The habit of taking the substance results in a gradual tolerance of the drug, which turns into a physical dependence on the substance. If you change your thoughts and behaviors, then it is no longer a habit and it is possible to start reaching your short and long-term recovery goals.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a treatment option that may help in your recovery or the recovery of a loved one. The treatment focuses on changing the thought processes of the individual using drugs or alcohol, so it can alter the subconscious assumptions that make substance abuse tempting.