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Over the past few decades, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has been extensively researched for use in the treatment of substance abuse and other mental disorders. But is CBT right for you or your loved one? Cognitive behaviour therapy for alcoholism can be quite effective when implemented correctly.
First things first, what is an alcohol use disorder (AUD)? There are different criteria for defining and diagnosing AUD. And these criteria have changed and developed over many years. You or a loved one may be suffering from alcoholism if one or more of the following criteria is met:
These symptoms may present themselves as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild does not mean that the substance abuse should not be addressed. Alcoholism can lead to major health issues, physiologically, as well as emotional issues and interpersonal struggles.
It may still be difficult to really determine on your own if you or a loved one meets these criteria. It is not uncommon to ignore or excuse certain behaviours.
One way to help know if you might be struggling with alcohol-related substance abuse is if your drinking impacts or hinders any aspect of your life – whether that be personal responsibilities, interpersonal relationships, overall mood, etc.
If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with alcoholism, please consult a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible.
The cognitive model is very straightforward and common-sense based, working with the relationship between cognitions, emotions, and behaviours. There are three main aspects highlighted with cognitive behaviour therapy:
The principles of CBT are based on the observations of dysfunctional automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts are those that we first have in response to something. These thoughts may be mistaken, distorted, exaggerated, or unrealistic. These automatic thoughts can play a major role in the next item on the list – cognitive distortion.
Cognitive distortion occurs when an individual may have errors in logic in their belief systems. This is much more common in individuals suffering from mental disorders and/or struggles with substance abuse. Some of the most common cognitive distortions are:
All of these cognitive distortions that happen after automatic thoughts can lead to underlying belief systems or schemas. It is not uncommon for those suffering from substance abuse and addiction to engage in many or even most of these cognitive distortions.
This leads to many self-damaging underlying belief systems. However, the goal of CBT is to identify and change this vicious cycle for those suffering from substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
There are three main components of learning or conditioning with cognitive behaviour therapy for alcoholism. Understanding these basic psychological principles are very beneficial to the recovering alcoholic. Therapists will work on these fundamental components with clients during CBT:
Combining all three of these basic psychological principles can help the individual to recognise, avoid, and cope with life’s daily triggers and stressors that have led to alcohol use in the past.
This has been shown to effectively help those struggling with substance abuse with alcohol. These are the three most basic skills for managing these triggers:
The basic principle of using cognitive behaviour therapy for alcoholism is that substance abuse and other related behaviours stem from learned beliefs and improper coping skills.
The basic goals of CBT in the treatment of substance abuse are to:
While there is much more to it than that, those are the basics of CBT. When you look at it from its most basic elements, it can feel less overwhelming.
There are so many benefits of utilising CBT techniques in achieving sobriety including:
CBT has also been found to be effective in therapy for other mental disorders including:
Cognitive behaviour therapy for alcoholism is known to be quite effective, especially when combined with other appropriate treatment/counselling techniques.
It is important to not confuse CBT with cognitive behaviour education (CBE). It is also important to make sure that the therapist enacting this treatment is well educated and trained on this method of therapy.
Research has shown statistical significance with the use of cognitive behaviour therapy for alcoholism. However, it should be noted that these rates have shown some drop between the period of six to nine months into treatment.
Success rates drop even more after one year. This may highlight the need for continued counselling and guidance from a mental health professional, even if less frequent than the initial intervention.
In some cases, more often with comorbid mental disorders, an individual may require a medical assessment and even medications. This is one reason it is so important to talk with a mental health professional or doctor about yourself or your loved one.
Licensed counsellors and even some psychologists are not able to prescribe medications but often work alongside physicians and psychiatrists who may prescribe medication when necessary.
CBT can be a healthy and effective treatment method for those in recovery. Again, it can not be stressed enough to speak with a licenced medical or mental health professional if you think you or a loved one could benefit from cognitive behaviour therapy for alcoholism.
It’s never too late to start and get life back on track with sobriety, health, and happiness.
To discover your road to recovery, call us today on 0800 111 41 08