Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the process of identifying negative, irrational thought patterns which in turn influence a person’s behavior. Unhealthy thought patterns always play a role in the development of an addiction, regardless of whether it’s to drugs, alcohol, gambling, tobacco, or pornography. By breaking the cycle of negative thinking, therapists can help addicts learn new behaviors to replace those that led to and perpetuated their addiction.

Due to the many benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy, more and more addiction treatment programs are including it. Following is a breakdown of some of the most salient benefits of this highly effective therapy:

A Crucial Network of Support

Cognitive behavioral therapy can give individuals a support network to depend on during the recovery process. This can be helpful whenever a person is struggling with situations that could cause them to suffer a relapse. By providing positive encouragement during these stressful times, therapists can often help patients avoid falling back into the behavior patterns that first led to addiction. When addicts feel that no one is interested in their recovery, they may decide to continue participating in activities that only serve to reinforce their addiction.

Development of More Positive Thought Patterns

Addicts often suffer from negative thought patterns that contribute to and reinforce feelings of helplessness. In order to cope with these distressful, bleak feelings they often turn to drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Positive thinking can help change this pattern so they no longer feel so overwhelmed by everyday circumstances. Individuals who are confident they can handle certain situations are much less likely to engage in destructive behaviors in order to cope.

Enhancement of Self-esteem

For many people, low self-esteem is one of the primary factors underlying their addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help addicts improve their self-image. As their self-esteem blossoms, they will no longer desire nor feel the need to engage in behaviors that are self-destructive. Constantly reinforcing a person’s self-worth will help them start to believe that they truly deserve a better life than the one they currently have. In order to overcome an addiction, it’s essential to have a strong desire to improve their personal circumstances. Any experienced drug counselor knows that, without that desire, most addicts are unwilling to accept help.

Learning to Resist Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can be difficult for many people to resist, and addicts are particularly vulnerable. During cognitive behavioral therapy, they will learn to practice new behaviors that will help them reach their desired goals. With regards to peer pressure, they might first imagine themselves saying no to their addiction, followed by practicing doing so in a controlled setting. This will prepare them to resist when others pressure them to use. With practice, they become able to say no to the substances or activities that created the addiction whenever they were faced with temptation. Ultimately, they’ll feel more and more confident doing this in real life situations as they present themselves.


Cognitive behavioral therapy is often chosen for addiction treatment because of its cost-effectiveness. Some types of addiction treatment involve staying in an inpatient setting, which can be very expensive. Cognitive behavioral therapy, on the other hand, can be conducted quite effectively on an outpatient basis. Although it may be part of a residential program, it doesn’t necessarily require overnight stays in a treatment center. When done in an outpatient setting, it can help to significantly reduce the cost of addiction treatment. It is also often covered by medical insurance plans as well.

Gradual Steps

Breaking an addiction is a time-consuming effort, so remedies that claim to work quickly are often ineffective. With cognitive behavioral therapy, patients are gradually introduced to new concepts that will help them break the cycle of addiction. Each individual continues at his or her own pace, so this type of therapy can easily be tailored to suit individual needs. The therapist can spend more time helping a patient master the steps they are uncomfortable with, but quickly move past the ones that take little time to accomplish.

Continuity of Normal Activities

Since cognitive behavioral therapy is often conducted on an outpatient basis, those who are undergoing treatment can still keep up their daily routines. There is no need to be separated from family members, which is the case with inpatient or residential addiction treatment. Patients do not need to take a leave of absence from work, which could cause strained relationships with employers as well as financial hardship. Therapy appointments can often be scheduled in the evening. This allows those who work during normal business hours to avoid taking time off from work in order to attend their therapy sessions.

Gradual End to Therapy

With some types of addiction therapy, the treatment lasts a certain amount of time and then abruptly stops. This doesn’t have to be the case with cognitive behavioral therapy, as sessions can be tapered off gradually as an individual’s condition improves. In the beginning, a patient might have weekly or bi-weekly sessions, and then reduce these to every other week. During the final stages of treatment, a patient might be seen only once a month just to make sure they’re not relapsing. When the patient has successfully overcome the addiction, therapy can be terminated.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has many benefits when it’s incorporated into addiction treatment. Many addicts in recovery have found that this therapy played a significant role in helping them successfully overcome unhealthy habits and behaviors. Additionally, many have also found that the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy can be applied with great benefit to other aspects of their life as well.

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