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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - Freedom from Addiction

The Ultimate Guide To Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

One technique that can prove to be exceptionally effective during drug and alcohol addiction treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy.

Addiction involves many different negative thought patterns that can act like a cage and trap the patient in a cycle of relapse. The social and mental impacts of drug and alcohol addiction can work to reinforce this thinking, making seeking help and rehabilitation extremely difficult. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a process that can be used during addiction treatment to help patients change how they think.

So what is CBT and how can it help patients stay on the road to sobriety?

CBT offers a range of tools to help addicts recover and learn better ways of thinking and approaching problems. Find out everything you need to know about cognitive behavioural therapy below!

cognitive behavioural therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

First, let’s discuss what exactly CBT is.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a psycho-social therapeutic technique that aims to rewire the way an individual approaches negative or disordered thinking. The process involves identifying cognitive distortions, such as overgeneralizations, maximizing negatives or minimizing positives, and then teaching skills that can be applied to look past these misconceptions. By focusing on reality and avoiding these maladaptive thought processes, patients can improve their mental health and avoid falling back into the thinking patterns that are conducive to drug or alcohol relapse.

CBT is a problem-focused and action-oriented form of therapy, giving patients the tools they need to solve problems on their own and change their lives for the better. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, which involve a therapist trying to discern meaning out of unconscious thoughts and feelings, CBT is very conscious-focused, preferring to pay attention to the present than the subconscious past.

The Phases Of CBT

Cognitive behavioural therapy involves several different stages in order to be effective. This is a methodical approach that aims to identify the particular issues facing a patient, and then giving them the tools they need to actively combat them in their day to day lives.


The first step in the CBT process is to assess the patient and the particular issues facing them. 

This will involve in depth discussions with patients, their families, and self-reported measurements of thought processes. Cognitive behavioural therapists will investigate what situations in the patient’s life might be affecting them, such as drug and alcohol addiction, and what kind of maladaptive thought responses the patient might be having, such as “I will never beat this”, “there is no hope for me”, or “I am a failure for being an addict”.

Identifying these will allow the CBT professional to determine the best course of action.


Once the situations and thought processes have been identified, it is time for one of the most crucial steps in the CBT process. 

Reconceptualization involves tasking the patient with challenging and reconsidering the reality of the situation when these maladaptive thought processes present themselves. Whenever the patient has one of these self-defeating thoughts, the therapist will ask them to pause, take a closer look at that thought, and then dig into why it does not accurately represent reality. This forces patients to reassess what they consider to be “normal thinking” and help them to realise that these thoughts are not helpful and can be changed.

Skills Acquisition

The next stage in the CBT process is teaching the skills necessary to improve one’s life.

The specific skills that are taught in this stage will depend on the particular negative thought processes the patient struggles with. Skills can range from things like activity scheduling and successive approximation, to mindfulness and problem solving. All of these skills will be designed to not only help tackle a specific issue, but to work in concert together to help overcome the many complex and varied maladaptive thought process people face every day.

Application Training

Once the skills have been learned, it is time to apply them in daily life.

Application training gives patients homework to attempt to implement their new skills in real world situations. Whenever a patient experiences one of previously identified maladaptive thought processes, they should attempt to work through it using the appropriate CBT skills. They should then take note of these experiences, and discuss them with their therapist to determine what they did well, and what they could improve on moving forward.


Once a patient has proven they can effectively apply these skills to their present lives, it is time to talk about the future.

The generalization phase involves discussing how these learned techniques can be generalized across a patient’s life, and how it will affect their future. The therapist will hold discussions with the patient about how they plan to utilize CBT in their future lives, how they think they will fare outside of therapy, and what coping mechanisms will be in place should they start to fall back into negative thought patterns.

Post-Treatment Assessment

The final phase of CBT is determining whether the process has been a success or not.

Patients will participate in post-therapy assessments and report on how the skills they have learned have helped them process their maladaptive thought patterns. Therapists will determine whether the patient has adapted well to their new approaches to thinking, or whether they require extra assistance to move forward.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Addiction

CBT can be an extremely effective tool in helping recovering drug and alcohol addicts stay on the road to sobriety.

Negative thought patterns are a classic symptom of addiction, bringing patients into a self fulfilling prophecy of depression and relapse. CBT can help break this cycle, giving patients the tools they need to realize that their thinking is not normal and can be changed with the right skills. This can help improve emotional state, reduce cravings, and improve chances of sticking to sobriety.


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