Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Treat Addiction?

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy approach that can be used to help treat substance use disorders. CBT is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other mental disorders, but it has also been shown to be valuable in treating alcoholism and drug addiction. This is especially true when it’s part of an overall program of recovery.

CBT helps people learn to better identify the negative and self-defeating thoughts and actions that can contribute to substance use. It is a short-term, focused therapeutic approach to helping drug-dependent people become abstinent.

How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Works?

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Rational emotive behavior therapy, also known as REBT, is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy developed by psychologist Albert Ellis. REBT is focused on helping clients change irrational beliefs.

The Basic Steps of REBT

In order to better understand how REBT looks, it is important to take a closer look at the therapeutic process itself.

Identify Irrational Thought Patterns and Beliefs

The very first step in the process is to identify the underlying, irrational thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that lead to psychological distress. In many cases, these irrational beliefs are reflected as absolutes, as in “I must,” “I should,” or “I cannot.” According to Ellis, some of the most common irrational beliefs include:

  • Feeling excessively upset over other people’s mistakes or misconduct
  • Believing that you must be 100% competent and successful in everything to be valued and worthwhile
  • Believing that you will be happier if you avoid life’s difficulties or challenges
  • Feeling that you have no control over your own happiness, that your contentment and joy are dependent upon external forces

Holding such unyielding beliefs makes it almost impossible to respond to activating situations in a psychologically healthy way. Possessing such rigid expectations of ourselves and others only leads to disappointment, recrimination, regret, and anxiety. Rational emotive behavior therapy can be effective in the treatment of a range of psychological disorders, including anxiety and phobias. It can also help people manage specific behaviors, such as severe shyness and excessive approval-seeking.

Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.

DBT can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (eating disorders and substance use disorders). DBT is sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How It Works

DBT has evolved to become an evidence-based psychotherapy approach that is used to treat many conditions. DBT is used in three therapeutic settings.

Group settings where patients are taught behavioral skills by completing homework assignments and role-playing new ways of interacting with others.

Individual therapy with a trained professional where a patient’s learned behavioral skills are adapted to their personal life challenges.

Phone coaching in which patients can call the therapist between sessions to receive guidance on coping with a difficult situation they are currently in.

Each therapeutic setting has its own structure and goals, but the characteristics of DBT can be found in group skills training, individual psychotherapy, and phone coaching.

Acceptance and change. You’ll learn strategies to accept and tolerate your life circumstances, emotions, and yourself. You will also develop skills that can help you make positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others.

Behavioral. You’ll learn to analyze problems or destructive behavior patterns and replace them with more healthy and effective ones.

Cognitive. You’ll focus on changing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and actions that are not effective or helpful.  

Collaboration. You’ll learn to communicate effectively and work together as a team (therapist, group therapist, psychiatrist).

Skill sets. You’ll learn new skills to enhance your capabilities.

Support. You’ll be encouraged to recognize your positive strengths and attributes and develop and use them.