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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Addiction & Substance Abuse

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment.
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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

According to the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI), CBT is a type of psychotherapy that is different from traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy because the patient and therapist actively work together to help the patient recover from mental illness issues. People who seek CBT can expect their therapist to be problem-focused, and goal-directed in addressing the challenging symptoms of mental illnesses. Because CBT is an active intervention, one can also expect to do homework or practice outside of sessions.

AAC uses CBT as one of our research-based treatment modalities for all levels of care because it focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to self-destructive actions and the beliefs that direct these thoughts, people with mental illness can modify their patterns of thinking to improve coping skills. As part of an individualized treatment plan, we use CBT with clients as a way to help them identify self-defeating thoughts and behaviors which may often drive addiction.

According to the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (NACBT), CBT doesn’t exist as a distinct therapeutic technique rather as a general classification term for a number of therapies with similarities. AAC provides several treatment modalities that are considered CBT techniques.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) & Substance Abuse

According to the Cognitive Therapy Guide, a resource guide to Cognitive Therapy for Health Professionals, negative thinking is an obstacle to self-change. All-or-nothing thinking is one of the most frequently encountered types of negative thinking. Negative thinking patterns are one main cause of many problems including anxiety, depression, and addiction. These powerful, destructive thoughts are prevalent in individuals struggling with substance abuse and all-or-nothing thinking contributes to their sense of powerlessness and lack of control over their addiction behavior.

An example of all-or-nothing thinking is, “I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure.” By using written exercises and keeping thought records, CBT can help clients understand negative thinking and develop healthier thinking which they can incorporate it into their lives.

More than 50% of those living with dual diagnosis (co-occurring mental health disorder) did not receive any medical treatment or psychotherapeutic intervention to help them progress in their recovery.

Because CBT takes on some of the negative or distorted thinking, it tackles cognition tendencies that are deeply ingrained in individuals struggling with addiction. By assisting clients to recognize the thinking that drives their addiction behavior, it is an effective treatment modality for substance abuse, binge eating disorders, and specific mental health diagnoses.

For addiction treatment, CBT is effective because it is highly focused and compared to other therapeutic modalities; a course of CBT sessions is relatively short term in nature. Since addiction treatment programs are normally offered in timeframes lasting 30-days, 45-days or 90-days, CBT can quickly focus on the client’s maladaptive substance use to help develop alternative behavior skills as part of his/her integrated treatment plan.

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Is CBT Covered by Insurance?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, when used in a formal rehab treatment plan, may be covered by insurance. This will depend on your insurance coverage provider. Use our online verification form below to see if insurance may be able to cover the cost of treatment.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

It’s common for individuals struggling with substance use disorder to have destructive, negative thinking. Not recognizing these thought patterns are harmful, they seek treatment for depression or other external influences. Since cognition affects our wellbeing, changing harmful thought patterns is essential. CBT addresses harmful thought patterns, which help clients recognize their ability to practice alternative ways of thinking, and regulates distressing emotions and harmful behavior.
As a research-based treatment modality, CBT is an effective treatment for substance abuse, eating disorders, and specific mental health diagnoses. An active therapeutic modality, CBT is present-oriented, problem-focused, and goal-directed, which may provide the following benefits:

Negative thinking is an obstacle to self—change.

How is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment used at AAC facilities?

We recognize that a majority of clients entering treatment at AAC facilities have a dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring mental health issue that must be addressed along with their addiction. Addiction treatment is often a blend of therapeutic activities that address both of these issues. CBT is provided at AAC facilities and delivered in an environment conducive to recovery by a compassionate and integrated treatment team, while keeping in alignment with each client’s treatment goals.

When we speak about AAC providing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions for our clients, our clinicians do so as part of the client’s specific overall recovery program, whether the client’s level of service is Residential Treatment (RT), Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). AAC may provide CBT techniques to be used as a monotherapeutic approach for the client’s addiction treatment or in conjunction with other services (i.e. group therapy, psychopharmacology, etc.), depending on the client’s treatment plan. We provide a number of similar therapeutic techniques falling into the CBT category, including Motivational Interviewing (MI), Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other substance abuse therapies.

Our dual diagnosis curriculum, Embracing Change: Recovery for Life is our research-based workbook series we designed specifically for use by AAC clients in our addiction treatment programs. As the foundation and primary tool used by the clients, it not only serves as a resource for self-exploration and recovery, but a learning tool featuring exercises to complement the other therapeutic components of our program, including CBT treatment modalities.

As a major unit of our curriculum, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) section emphasizes the CBT principles that behaviors and thoughts can be unlearned, specifically those unhealthy, problematic behaviors and thoughts. We place the emphasis on learning healthier, more adaptive thoughts and behavior through psycho-education, skills training and cognitive restructuring. Modules include:

  • CBT & Breathing Retraining
  • Recognizing Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS)
  • Cognitive Distortions & Cognitive Restructuring (CR)
  • Power of Perception
Last Updated on December 3, 2021
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment.
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