Addiction is a mental health issue that requires behavioral therapy that focuses on the individual’s reason behind their addiction for effective treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based behavioral therapy option that is highly effective when we combine it with other addiction therapy programs

Addiction, at times, begins as a result of an individual trying to manage negative thoughts. This requires treatment that addresses more than just the physical damage that addiction causes. When you treat the physical and mental aspects of addiction simultaneously, you have a better chance of creating healthy coping skills. These tools will help patients maintain their sobriety.

At Chapters Recovery Center in Danvers, Massachusetts, we include CBT for substance abuse and other therapy options through our treatment programs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol and is ready to make positive changes, we are here to help.

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

cbt for substance abuse

Cognitive-behavioral therapy looks at the link between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It helps patients focus on challenging and changing negative thoughts about themselves and the world around them. CBT was first developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s when he noticed his patient’s thoughts often impacted their emotions. It was not until the 1990s that cognitive-behavioral therapy started gaining popularity in treating various conditions such as addiction and mental illness. 

Through individual therapy, therapists will guide the patient toward discovering the root cause behind their addiction and how to change their thinking patterns when they find themselves reaching for their substance of choice. Instead of thinking, “I have to have a drink,” it becomes, “I can remove myself from the situation to call my sponsor.”

At Chapters Recovery Center, we offer cognitive-behavioral therapy to New England residents. This treatment can help them with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Our approach to addiction treatment focuses on the whole person and not just their illness.

How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work

Compared to other types of therapy, the effectiveness of CBT is supported by scientific research and clinical practice. The methods involved in CBT for substance abuse or mental disorders have been shown to affect positive change in patients who undergo this type of therapy. Differing from other forms of psychological treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on several core principles:

  1. Unhelpful ways of thinking cause psychological problems.
  2. Learned patterns of unhelpful behavior cause psychological problems.
  3. By learning better ways of coping, people with psychological problems can become more effective in their lives and gain relief from their symptoms.

CBT for substance abuse requires an understanding of the problem plaguing a patient by both the patient and the psychologist. Working together, a patient and psychologist develop strategies to change negative thinking patterns. The strategies for changing thought patterns can include the following:

  • Developing a greater sense of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities.
  • Using problem-solving techniques to cope with difficult or painful situations.
  • Gaining an understanding of the motivation and behaviors of other people.
  • Learning to recognize distorted thinking when it happens and then reevaluate thoughts in the light of reality.

Through role-play, relaxation techniques, and facing one’s fears, CBT for substance abuse helps patients develop the coping mechanisms they need to refrain from using drugs. Outside of sessions, patients must do “homework.” This consists of different exercises that reinforce what they learned in therapy sessions.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Exercises

CBT therapists employ a few specific exercises to help patients overcome their addictions. CBT for substance abuse may require a therapist and patient to focus on some of these exercises more than others. These exercises include the following:

Thought Records

Examining negative thoughts helps make a positive cognitive change. This is done by recording negative thoughts in a thought record, analyzing why they are harmful, and then coming up with a more positive replacement thought.

Behavioral Experiments

A behavioral experiment is an investigation of the impact of behavior on some desired outcome. The goal is to test whether the behavior has the desired outcome, as opposed to just assuming that it does.

Cognitive Restructuring

One of the most important goals of CBT for substance abuse is to help people change the thoughts that contribute to their addictive behavior. Cognitive restructuring is a technique used to change the way a person thinks about a situation. The goal is to challenge and change negative, unhelpful thoughts that can contribute to problems like anxiety or addiction.

Imagery-Based Exposure

During imagery-based exposure, the person imagines themselves in a situation that typically causes them anxiety or fear. They stay in the situation until the fear subsides, and then gradually increase the difficulty of the scenario over time. This allows them to face their fears in a safe and controlled environment.

Guided Discovery

Guided discovery starts with a therapist getting familiar with your viewpoints. Next, the therapist will ask you questions that help them understand how your thoughts and feelings are related to your addiction. This approach helps identify the thoughts and beliefs that contribute to addictive behavior.

Exposure Therapy

When a person in CBT for substance abuse has fears or phobias that drive them to drink or use drugs, exposure therapy is employed. In this type of therapy, the person is gradually exposed to the things that scare them.

Relaxation Techniques

If stress is a contributing factor to relapse, relaxation techniques may be used in CBT for substance abuse. Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can help a person learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways.


Role-playing can help people learn how to deal with difficult situations. For instance, if a person is afraid of social situations, they may be asked to role-play in a safe situation with the therapist. This will help them learn how to cope with the situation in a healthy way.

How CBT for Substance Abuse Works

While CBT is highly effective at treating a range of mental health issues, it is particularly effective at treating substance abuse disorders. Due to how this therapy teaches individuals to change their behavior, it aids those who are undergoing this therapy to make better decisions when it comes to substance abuse. 

The goal of CBT for substance abuse is to help people understand why they use drugs or alcohol and how to change their thoughts and behaviors so that they can abstain from using substances. It may also involve learning coping skills and problem-solving techniques.

How CBT for Substance Abuse Differs from Other Types of Psychotherapy

Other methods of psychotherapy are considered to be less engaging than CBT. Most types of psychotherapy involve only talking about problems in the life of the patient. CBT, instead, is a hands-on approach where the patient and psychotherapist work together to address the real and present issues in a person’s life.

Other types of psychotherapy may also be less effective for people with substance abuse disorders. This is because CBT is a more directive and goal-oriented type of therapy that helps individuals to understand how their thoughts and behaviors are connected. It also provides them with the tools they need to make changes in their lives.

CBT for substance abuse also has a strong impact on patients in a relatively short amount of time. This is highly useful in a rehabilitation setting where patients only stay in treatment for anywhere from 30 to 90 days. After 16 sessions, CBT begins to produce meaningful results while traditional methods of psychotherapy can take years to produce similar results.

Benefits of CBT for Substance Abuse 

cbt for substance abuse

When you begin your addiction therapy program, you will have multiple types of physical and mental therapy options to help you in your recovery. Our goal is to not only treat your addiction but reorientate your thinking patterns. As a result of this treatment, ideally, you will no longer crave alcohol or drugs when you feel stressed or face old triggers.

Just some of the benefits you will feel from our CBT program include:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Anger management
  • Better communication skills
  • Creating healthy habits for stress reduction
  • Fewer relapses

CBT for substance abuse is highly effective in teaching you how to recognize when your triggers are in play. You can also learn how to deal with them positively and healthily. You will discover your inner power as you regain control of your life back from addiction.

Seek CBT for Substance Abuse at Chapters Recovery Center

When you first arrive at Chapters Recovery Center, you will receive a full examination. This evaluation will help us determine the severity of your addiction and develop the right treatment program based on your individual needs. Based on your therapist’s recommendations, your treatment program may include:

As you progress through your addiction treatment, your program will be updated based on your progress. As you regain your self-confidence, you will move to an outpatient program, where you will begin to re-enter your home, work, and social life with new coping skills to help maintain your sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs using cognitive-behavioral therapy.