Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

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Addiction treatment centers use various forms of psychotherapy in Pasadena, California. One of the top forms of psychotherapy for addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT for addiction is often vital to achieving recovery.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing the negative thoughts and emotions that cause people to exhibit negative behaviors. There is an ample amount of research and scientific evidence that shows that cognitive behavioral therapy is effective at treating both mental health disorders and substance use disorders.

The theory behind CBT for addiction is that by altering one’s negative thoughts and emotions, an individual can alter the root cause of the behaviors that cause him or her to suffer from substance abuse issues.

Core Concepts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the core principles of CBT include the following:

  • Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
  • Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  • People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.

CBT Strategies for Changing Negative Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors into Positive Ones

change your negative emotions to positive today!.

According to the APA, the strategies that CBT usually utilizes to change a person’s negative thoughts include:

  • Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then learning to reevaluate them in light of reality.
  • Gaining a better understanding of the behaviors and motivations of others.
  • Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
  • Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence in one’s abilities.

The strategies that the APA states that CBT utilizes to alter a person’s negative behavioral patterns include:

  • Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.
  • Using role-playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others.
  • Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body.

People may not use all of the CBT strategies in addiction treatment. The CBT strategies that an individual will use in his or her addiction treatment program will vary depending on that person’s individual needs.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help Treat Addiction?

Oftentimes, the mental health issues that people suffer from and the negative thoughts and emotions that often come with those mental health issues, are what trigger people to start to want to abuse substances. In other words, many people start abusing substances to cope with their negative thoughts and emotions.

Because many people start abusing substances to cope with negative thoughts and emotions, it only makes sense that learning how to alter one’s negative thoughts and emotions can help stop a person from abusing substances. Not only can CBT for addiction help people stop abusing substances to cope with negative thoughts and emotions, but it can also help people learn how to replace their negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones. CBT for addiction can even help people with substance addictions develop better communication skills.

Common CBT Techniques for Addiction Treatment

CBT therapy in groups

There are numerous different techniques that substance addiction therapists use to treat their patients’ drug problems. Some of the common CBT techniques for addiction treatment are listed below.

Thought Recording

By listing and keeping a record of one’s negative thoughts, a person can later reflect on his or her negative thinking patterns. Keeping a thought record can also help individuals later come up with specific ways that they can disprove their negative thoughts and emotions.

Behavior Experiments

Through behavior experiments, people in CBT for addiction treatment can see which positive thoughts and emotions best alter their negative behaviors into positive ones. Behavior experiments are great to use when coming up with individualized addiction treatment plans.

Imagery-Based Exposure

People who participate in imagery-based exposure picture in their minds negative memories that could trigger their substance use and/or mental health issues. Through imagery-based exposure, people who suffer from substance addictions can ease the level of anxiety that often surrounds their most negative life moments. This, in turn, decreases the chance that a person with a substance use disorder will abuse substances to cope with their negative thoughts.

Pleasant Activity Schedule

In this CBT for addiction technique, people come up with pleasant activities that they can partake in. The goal is for these pleasant activities to help people with substance addictions stay positive. That way, they don’t need to abuse substances to cope with life.


Journaling is always a great therapeutic tool. Through journaling, people can express their thoughts and emotions in a healthy way that will help them cope. Journaling also helps people reflect on their past thoughts and emotions. Through this reflection, individuals can discover new things about themselves.


Meditation involves quietly concentrating on one’s inner thoughts and breathing patterns. Not only does meditation help people focus, but it also helps relieve people of their negative thoughts and emotions. In other words, meditation helps people healthily cope with life.

Role Playing

While role-playing, individuals will act out situations and arguments that would typically trigger them to abuse substances. Through role-playing, people can learn how to best alter their negative behaviors into positive ones.

Common Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There are various types of CBT. Some of the most popular ones are discussed below.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

After CBT itself, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is arguably the most popular type of CBT. DBT
focuses on helping people accept their negative thoughts and emotions. That way, people are less triggered by them and will be less likely to exhibit negative behaviors such as using substances to cope.

The primary difference between CBT and DBT is that CBT focuses on changing people’s negative thoughts and emotions while DBT focuses on helping people accept their negative thoughts and emotions.

Multimodal Theory

This form of CBT addresses the following seven different interconnected modalities: behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal factors, and drug/biological considerations.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based type of CBT for addiction that uses interviewing and talk therapy to assess people’s internal motivation level for change. Motivational interviewing also makes sure to resolve any ambivalence that patients may have toward changing their addictive behaviors.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) identifies and changes people’s irrational beliefs and maladaptive thought patterns that cause them to exhibit harmful behaviors.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) focuses on changing the way people react to negative thoughts. In other words, MBCT is more about altering the way people impulsively respond to negative thoughts rather than altering the negative thoughts themselves. The ultimate goals of MBCT are mindfulness and healthy living.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) focuses on increasing people’s tolerance for emotional pain. That way, people don’t need to constantly avoid every person, place, or thing that reminds them of their past painful experiences. ACT promotes finding different ways to cope with emotional pain even when faced with people, places, or things that may trigger that pain.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy uses exposure CBT techniques to help people decrease the levels of anxiety that they feel when faced with phobias or past reminders of trauma. Exposure therapy is typically used to help treat people with anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or certain phobias.

Receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Path to Recovery

Receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Path to Recovery

Here at Path to Recovery in Pasadena, California, our mission is to provide a solid foundation for treatment and rehab by focusing on improving the spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being of people who suffer from chemical dependency. We achieve this mission every day through our detox center and outpatient addiction and mental health treatment programs.

We even offer our patients medication to help them overcome the withdrawal symptoms and health issues that often arise when no longer using certain substances. To go the extra mile, we also follow up with patients for an extended period to help prevent them from relapsing.

Because our medical detox program in Pasadena, California, and addiction treatment programs are of high quality, they include a variety of evidence-based therapies, one of which is cognitive behavioral therapy. Path to Recovery patients can receive different forms of CBT for addiction individually or in groups.

To learn more about Path to Recovery and all the ways that we can help you overcome your substance abuse and mental health issues, contact us today. Our staff is more than willing to answer any questions that you may have.

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