Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was first developed as a clinical approach to managing mood disorders, but later adapted to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) other forms of addiction as well.CBT works on the theory that certain patterns of thought can contribute to maladaptive behaviors (such as continued substance use), but a decrease in such behaviors can be achieved through identifying and changing the negative thoughts and emotions. Many studies have shown that this type of treatment has benefits that continue even after treatment has concluded.
A variety of CBT techniques can help reduce substance use, manage cravings, and avoid relapse. During cognitive restructuring, you are guided to examine your thoughts, discuss them with a therapist, understand any unhelpful patterns that appear, and substitute more helpful thoughts whenever possible. You learn to identify situations involving people, places, or things that are likely to tempt you to drink or use substances.
Another aim of CBT is to develop coping skills that can help you manage cravings and better navigate circumstances that can’t be avoided so that you become comfortable saying no. You are encouraged to participate in positive and constructive activities to fill the time that would be otherwise spent drinking, drugs using or engaging in other non-constructive behaviors.
Finally, an important aspect of CBT is building or strengthening various skills—family or other social relationships, managing emotions, occupational, or problem-solving skills—that may need some work. Tailored to your individual needs, this approach is achieved through a combination of education, role-playing, individual and group counseling, and at-home practice.