Substance abuse happens when a person doesn’t drink or take drugs properly. This form of abuse includes excessive consumption or incorrect use of alcohol, prescription medicine, and other legal and illegal substances.  

There is more than one way to treat substance abuse, but when seeking treatment for substance abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is one method that you may find helpful.  

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common and best-studied forms of psychotherapy. CBT combines both the therapeutic approaches of cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Cognitive behavioral therapy consists of two theories: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. 

Cognitive Therapy

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The objective of cognitive therapy is to get a clear idea of a person’s thoughts, attitudes, and expectations, and also reveal and alter false beliefs. The reasoning behind this is that objects and situations themselves don’t always cause issues. CBT practitioners believe that individuals attach importance to them.  

Destructive thought patterns can develop into generalized ways of thinking referred to as “over-generalizing.” This happens when a person draws a negative conclusion from a single occurrence, generalizes it, and applies it to similar circumstances.  

Distressing errors in reasoning can lead to “catastrophizing.” When a person experiences a disturbing situation, they’ll create exaggerated conclusions about the scope of the supposed disaster ahead. Cognitive therapy helps people learn to replace problematic and distressing thought patterns with more realistic and less harmful thoughts.

Behavioral Therapy

The second component of CBT is behavioral therapy, which views this learned human behavior as something that can be unlearned and learned anew. Behavioral therapy looks to find out if specific behavioral patterns make your life difficult or magnify your problems. In this second phase, the individual works on changing these behaviors.

The Steps and Benefits of CBT

Overcoming substance abuse is a process and will involve steps. Treating substance with cognitive behavioral therapy typically involves four steps.

Identify difficult conditions in your life. 

These types of situations can range from grief and divorce to a medical condition or mental illness. Have a discussion with your therapist to set goals and pinpoint essential needs. 

Be aware of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors about these conditions.

Once you have identified the life situations you want to focus on, your mental health professional will ask you how you feel about them. This discussion may dive into how you interpret situations and the beliefs you have about yourself and others. You may also evaluate your own “self-talk,” what you tell yourself about an event or occurrence.

Recognize inaccurate or negative thoughts and beliefs.  

Your counselor will ask you to observe your behavior and ways of thinking towards the previously identified situations, helping you identify problematic thought patterns. Your therapist will then help you change these negative thoughts and beliefs.

Some find this step to be the most difficult one because you might have been thinking the same way about things for a long time. You will have to identify your behavioral and thought patterns, and then your counselor will question whether these views are based on fact or an incorrect perception. This crucial step takes practice, but more helpful ways of thinking will come naturally to you over time.

How is CBT Different from Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was initially developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT treated other mental illnesses in time, but most people treated with dialectical behavior therapy were diagnosed with BPD.

DBT is rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, but with one main exception. Dialectical behavior therapy emphasized validation or the acceptance of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors instead of going against them. When a person comes to terms with their troubling thoughts, emotions, or actions, they no longer see that change is impossible. They can collaborate with their therapist on a recovery plan.

The role the therapist plays in DBT is to help the individual find a balance between acceptance and change. New skills are also developed, such as coping methods and mindfulness practices. Like individuals treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, people treated with dialectical behavioral therapy are instructed to practice these new ways of thinking and behaving. A crucial part of successful DBT treatment is the improvement of coping strategies.

How Does CBT Help Women?

When it comes to substance abuse, women face unique issues due to sex and gender. There are differences based on biology and culturally defined roles for men and women. Scientific studies on substance abuse discovered that women who use drugs could have issues related to hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.  Women also tend to have different reasons for taking drugs. This includes attempts to control weight, manage pain, exhaustion, and try to self-medicate mental health problems.

Data support the use of selective serotonin and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs and SNRIs) to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that affect some women.  Many women choose not to take this route for a condition that occurs once a month. Side effects from such medications like sexual dysfunction are not appealing. Cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful to women in treating such premenstrual symptoms because it offers an effective alternative.  This alternate method is also used to treat women for substance abuse.

Science has also discovered that women’s substance abuse differs from men because they often take smaller amounts of certain drugs for less time before becoming addicted. Sex hormones can cause women to be more sensitive to the effects of drugs compared to men.  Females also respond differently to substances. They can experience more drug cravings and can be more likely to relapse after treatment. Women are more likely to be taken to the emergency room from the effects of substance abuse or overdose and are more likely to die.  Females that are victims of domestic violence are at a higher risk of substance abuse.

Getting the Most Out of CBT for Substance Abuse

There are different forms of therapy when seeking treatment for a multitude of conditions like substance abuse.  Like any other treatment form, cognitive behavioral therapy should not be seen as a guaranteed cure for everyone. It’s up to the person to get the most out of their therapy treatments to recover successfully.

Treat therapy as a partnership.  

You must be an active participant and a part of the decision-making in treatment.  It is essential to agree with your therapist about your significant issues and how to confront them.  In this partnership, you and your mental health professional can set goals and evaluate progress over time.

Be open and honest.  

Having success in therapy means you have to be willing to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences and be open to new ways of doing things.  Let your therapist know of any reservations you may have about certain things because of painful emotions, embarrassment, or fears about how you think they will react.

Stick to the treatment plan.  

It can be tempting sometimes to skip therapy sessions when you start to feel down or lose motivation, which can hurt your progress.  Make a point to attend all sessions and think about what you would like to discuss.

Don’t expect results to be instant.  

Therapy can be hard work because it involves working on your emotional issues.  Don’t get discouraged if you feel worse initially because it is common to feel that way.  It can take several sessions before you see improvement.

Do homework between sessions.  

Follow through with any homework that your therapist assigns you to do in between sessions.  These assignments can range from writing in a journal to doing other activities.  Completing your assigned tasks will help you to apply what you learned during their therapy sessions.

Talk to your therapist if it’s not working.  

If you feel that your therapy sessions are not working, make sure to discuss this with your therapist. The two of you can decide to make changes or try a completely different approach.

If you are battling substance abuse, you should seek treatment. Recovering from a substance use disorder starts the minute you pick up the phone and ask for help.  There are many resources and treatment options available to you. 

Find Solace at Harmony Ridge Today

Harmony Ridge Recovery Center has a unique approach to addiction treatment, and we use evidence-based addiction treatment and a comprehensive-holistic system like cognitive behavioral therapy. Our recovery center has an experienced team of licensed medical professionals, administrative staff, and management ready to serve you. If you have fallen victim to substance abuse, contact us today.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279297/

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Psychotherapy

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-in-women

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610