Can CBT Help With Addiction?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy dating back to the 1960s.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, more commonly referred to as CBT, was founded by Dr. Aaron T. Beck.  CBT is a popular form of psychotherapy that has been widely used and researched since its discovery.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment method that focuses on our core beliefs and how we experience our thoughts and behaviors.  It focuses on the assumption that someone’s thoughts or feelings may be due to faulty thinking or assumptions.

What mental health conditions can CBT help?

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping people address their problematic thoughts and feelings.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very popular and widely used for many different mental health conditions.  Some of the conditions that can be treated with CBT include: anxiety, attention deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, and PTSD among many others.  CBT is also a main treatment method for addiction.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 50% of those that struggle with addiction will have another mental health condition (1)

How does CBT help those with addiction?

CBT focuses on brief, solution-focused interventions.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment that works toward eliminating symptoms and changing thoughts and behaviors.  CBT is effective when working with addiction since it’s normally our behaviors that can lead us into trouble.
CBT also focuses less on conventional 12-step treatment and more on our internal motivations and individual behaviors.  This can be done in addition or instead of a 12 step program, depending on your needs and the severity of your addiction.  CBT can help to understand your behaviors, manage emotions, and lead to better coping strategies when dealing with cravings or triggers.

How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work for addiction?

Addiction is a wide-ranging mental health condition that can dramatically affect your life.  One of CBT’s main focuses is on our thoughts and behaviors.  It can show us that our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions can be irrational or not logical at times.  This disconnect can be from past experience, environmental factors, or a combination of them both.  Specifically with addiction, a CBT therapist can help you to understand the meaning behind their actions.  When an addicted person can understand why they feel or act a certain way and how that can lead to their substance abuse, it’s possible for them to be better equipped to overcome their addiction.

A CBT therapist will help to identify your negative automatic thoughts.  What’s an automatic thought?  A thought based on impulse and most often arises from a misconception and can be from internalized feelings of self-doubt and/or fear.  Instead of dealing with these thoughts and feelings head on, people can turn to substances for relief and may have been the reason an addiction was formed in the first place.

Working with a CBT therapist can help you to understand these automatic thoughts and plan to deal with them before they happen.  By revisiting painful thoughts and/or memories, those struggling with addiction can help to reduce their pain.

What will I discuss with my CBT therapist about my addiction?

CBT Therapists are trained to help you change the way you think, behave, and feel.  While we all experience these differently, making sure that they are helpful, true, and in your best interest are important.  This can lead to a reduction in pain and symptoms.  Your goal with your therapist will be to learn new, positive behaviors and coping strategies to reduce the hold that your addiction has on you.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, of those that have a serious mental health condition, 25% of them are also diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. (2)

Dismiss false beliefs and insecurities

It’s important for us to know what our false beliefs are.  These false beliefs can be debilitating, and ultimately not even true.  Examining your core beliefs and what you choose to believe about the world, and yourself, will help you to build a stronger foundation.

Your therapist will work with you to understand what your false beliefs are and to cement your new beliefs in reality and truth.  This can be hard, grueling work, but can build a foundation that you can move forward and tackle your addiction with your best foot, and mind, forward.

Help to understand your triggers and cravings

Understanding your triggers and cravings can be a lifelong journey.  Triggers and cravings can be obvious and very cut and dry in some cases and a complete mystery to uncover.  It’s possible that you may not even know all of your triggers or cravings.  The first step to understanding your triggers is to recognize them.

Next can be the most difficult.  You’ll need to avoid them.  This could lead to a new place to live, losing relationships both romantic and platonic, or choosing different hobbies.  Avoiding triggers will be a lifelong struggle and the effort placed may ebb and flow for the rest of your life.
Therapists provide a safe space to talk and share your struggles.  Some people are able to go cold-turkey, but most aren’t.  Having someone that you can be honest with about what you’re going through can lead to big breakthroughs and even sobriety.

The last step, and sometimes overlooked, is to cope.  Working through your symptoms, learning about your addiction, and then making a conscious decision to change can be life-altering changes throughout your life.  Working with a therapist through this journey can help you to keep your mental health a priority while dealing with your addiction.  Having a therapist in your corner can definitely help.

Learn tools to help you

We all learn differently and have different tools we use.  We need to learn what works for us.  Your CBT Addiction Therapist will help to find the tools that work for you.  This could mean journals, experiments, scheduling, and a host of other strategies.

Cognitive Behavioral Relapse Prevention

Cognitive Behavioral Relapse Prevention (CBRP) is a specially trained form of CBT that has been applied to addiction with high relapse rates.  For those that may be struggling with their symptoms and need very structured help, CBRP can help.  This specialized view can help with very difficult addictions and has shown to be successful. The two main goals of CBRP are to prevent relapse and to help those experiencing relapse to get “back on track.”  Relapses are viewed as opportunities to learn new coping strategies and to try again to find the tools that work for you instead of a sign of a personal tragedy.

Silver Lake Psychology has CBT Therapist Specialists in Addiction

Silver Lake Psychology is your partner in facing your addiction.  No matter where you are in your journey, we know that you can help.  Our Addiction therapists can help you to understand your addiction, learn your triggers, build coping strategies and tools to help avoid, and cope with your symptoms and addictions.  Our therapists have many other specialties too.  So, if you have another mental health condition or are experiencing stress, grief, or other struggles, our therapists can help.

Silver Lake Psychology prides itself on providing an authentic therapy experience and have many therapists available.  We have diverse therapists, speak many languages, and all of our therapists are allies.  We have many LGBT therapists too.  Silver Lake Psychology will make working with us easy.  We work with insurance, have affordable self pay rates, and know that the better the relationship you have with your therapist, the better chance you’ll be successful in therapy.  We custom match you with your ideal therapist, plus, if it’s not a perfect fit, we’re big enough to have dozens of therapists available!  We’re eager to help!


Addiction can be a heavy burden that affects many different aspects of your life.  Working with a CBT Addiction therapist can be a great tool in your arsenal to help you work through your addiction.  While many people to work with a 12 step program, adding a CBT Addiction therapist can give you additional coping skills, a safe space to talk about your addiction and other struggles, and to learn more about yourself and your addiction.


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