Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

If you have been considering addiction treatment in the UK, you may have heard of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A talking therapy that is typically part of a comprehensive addiction treatment programme, CBT can also be provided as a stand-alone therapy.

One of the most widely used types of psychotherapies, CBT is provided by a qualified mental health practitioner, usually a counselor, psychotherapist, or psychologist. 

CBT helps change destructive thought patterns and develop coping skills. During your sessions, a practitioner aims to help you restructure negative thought patterns and behaviours, build new skills, and find new ways to cope without using drugs.

CBT is also often used in treatment programs for eating disorders and other mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

What to Expect During Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT will usually be provided as one-to-one therapy in a practitioner’s office. It may also occur in group therapy sessions when it forms part of an addiction treatment program during residential rehab. 

CBT is results-oriented and a short-term therapy that focuses on the present. Sessions usually last 45 minutes to one hour and involve speaking about your recent thoughts and behaviour.  They are structured and include agenda setting and discussing your goals. 

You will typically be encouraged to speak about what you have been thinking and doing in the past week. This enables the therapist to review and examine your thoughts and behaviour to promote change. Normally your therapist will also provide “homework” for you to complete between sessions. Typically, CBT will involve weekly sessions over a three to six-month period.

The success of CBT has been extensively researched as a treatment for mental health disorders, chronic pain, and substance use disorder (SUD). Research shows that CBT techniques are highly effective for addiction treatment in controlled trials. Studies have also indicated that CBT has similar results when treating alcohol use disorder (AUD).

How to Measure Success with CBT

There are several ways to measure the success of CBT, including:

  1. How you respond to stress — you feel more able to respond positively to stress and situations that previously triggered SUD.
  2. Increase in motivation to take up new activities.
  3. Tracking daily improvements in your ability and focus on completing daily tasks.

What CBT Brings to Addiction Recovery That Other Therapies Don’t

Compared to other talking therapies, CBT has several advantages when used as part of addiction treatment. The four key differences are:

  1. CBT is completed in a relatively short period. For example, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies can take years of regular sessions to complete. 
  2. Research indicates that CBT produces quicker results and changes — vital when treating SUD and providing therapy to patients during detox.
  3. CBT focuses on making changes in the present by learning new skills that can be used in daily life and increasing levels of self-awareness. In comparison, other talking therapies often focus more on the past and how past experiences have affected you.
  4. Research shows that the results of CBT therapy are long-lasting once therapy ends. This is different from many other talking therapies that require ongoing sessions to be effective.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine 

Various complementary therapies can be used alongside CBT when treating substance use disorder. However, current research on the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as an option for addiction treatment is encouraging but limited.

A few of the more widely-used complementary therapies during outpatient and residential addiction treatment include:

Outpatient vs Residential Rehab 

Choosing between outpatient addiction treatment or residential rehab can feel daunting; both have advantages and disadvantages to consider carefully.

Residential rehab may be a better option if you have had a longer-term substance use disorder, as this means you cannot access drugs and are separated from the stress of daily life that may trigger drug or alcohol use. 

Additionally, various studies have also indicated a lower rate of relapse after attending residential rehab. However, if you have a family or other commitments that you can not leave to attend residential rehab, outpatient addiction treatment might be more accessible.

The most important thing is to recognise that you need help and to attend some form of addiction treatment as soon as possible. 

Regardless of whether you attend residential rehab or an outpatient addiction programme, you will typically be given access to a wide variety of recognised traditional and holistic therapies. 

Five therapies you may encounter during your treatment include:

  1. Relapse prevention equips you to handle high stress and risky situations that could potentially lead to substance abuse.
  2. Group therapy can be beneficial because it allows you to receive feedback from others on common issues around addiction.
  3. Process therapies that target multiple issues within one program while addressing deeper underlying emotional problems.
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation offer techniques to slow down thoughts and relax the body and mind during any stressful thoughts or feelings associated with relapse behaviours. In clinical trials, meditation has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and aid with stress coping, which may help to reduce incidences of relapse. 
  5. 12-step programs that provide structure by guiding users through their journey using a proven formula developed decades ago, helping many obtain long-lasting sobriety.

Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder

Step by Step Recovery offers a residential rehab centre in Essex and outpatient addiction treatment programmes. You can also call 0800 170 1222 for free, no-obligation support and advice about addiction treatment options.  

The NHS provides outpatient addiction treatment and can arrange for you to attend a residential rehab facility.

Families Anonymous in the UK provides groups for anyone supporting someone with substance use disorder.