Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction

Behavioral Therapy and Coping Skills to Combat Substance Abuse

According to the Mental Health Services Administration, behavioral therapy is one of the most powerful tools in treating substance abuse and mental health disorders. Multiple forms of behavioral therapy exist, leaving many curious as to which specific form of this therapy is the most effective in regard to drug and alcohol abuse.

Although it’s difficult to gauge “a best” or what that might look like, as so many variables are involved in addiction treatment – where “success” can be such a relative term. However, cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT as it’s otherwise known – makes a case for being one of the most efficient when it comes to combating a broad spectrum of different substance use disorders combined with treating mental disorders.

If you’ve heard about cognitive behavioral therapy or have been contemplating seeing cognitive behavioral therapists, this article can help you to feel more confident about enrolling in an addiction treatment program that provides this form of therapy.

At Icarus Behavioral Health Nevada, we endorse evidence-based methods for cognitive behavioral therapy and have helped countless numbers of those struggling with addiction. We can help you, as well – continue reading to find out how.

Defining Behavioral Therapy

Defining Behavioral Therapy

A behavioral therapy program involves using various techniques to help individuals modify their maladaptive habits. Its goal is to put an end to these unhealthy behaviors, as well as reinforce appealing ones. Behavioral therapy is a component of behaviorism, wherein the idea that people can gain insight from their surroundings is explored.

A wide range of techniques is utilized in behavioral therapy to help individuals modify maladaptive habits designed to reinforce appealing ones. The primary dynamic at play during any behavioral therapy is rooted in the idea that we learn our behaviors and knowledge via our surroundings – the people we interact with, the ideas we hear, the situations we encounter, etc.

In what’s probably the most highly-focused remedy for drug and alcohol dependence, targeting behavioral patterns as the challenge and the route to overcoming this challenge lies in educating the client in replacing these behaviors.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of one-on-one talk therapy intended for short-term use against substance abuse disorder. It’s meant to act extremely fast and is incredibly powerful, with a high success rate compared to other types of treatment.

24 Hour Mental Health Treatment Hotline

What Conditions Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat? 

Although highly effective at treating substance abuse disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy is also considered a go-to for many of the following disorders:

  • Stress
  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Anger challenges
  • OCD
  • Bipolar Disorder

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work? 

There are multiple ways that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works and takes action against drug abuse and other disorders. At the core, it teaches coping skills and ways to develop more positive behaviors as a response to negative emotions and events.

However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is actually a collection of different forms of therapy rolled into one. These smaller forms of therapy are more like exercises, used between the client and counselor in smaller, compact sessions over the course of 10-16 weeks.

Exercises Used During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sessions

Exercises Used During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sessions

Behavior Modeling

Behavior modeling is a strategy that involves observing and imitating the positive behavior of others. It avoids focusing on penalties or reinforcing actions and allows people to develop new approaches by monitoring the other person.

Extinction Therapy

One of the most effective ways to create a new behavior pattern is by stopping the reinforcement of the existing behavior. This process can be done through time-outs, which are a type of extinction. During a time-out, the client is forced to take a break from the situation that produced the negative behavioral response.

Aversion Therapy

This type of therapy for substance use disorders involves pairing an aversive stimulus with an unfavorable behavior in order to anticipate that the latter will eventually change. During aversion therapy, a counselor might use something that smells or tastes unpleasant, electric shock, and even shame.

Systemic Desensitization

Individuals can utilize a systematic approach to addressing their concerns. It involves making a record of their worries and then engaging in a relaxation exercise. This method is commonly utilized to treat anxiety and other conditions but is also known to be effective for substance use disorders as well.


Journal and write down any thoughts you had during your cognitive behavioral therapy sessions from the prior week. It can be an effective way to analyze how the treatment is working and how it’s leading toward changes in your responses and behavior.

Confidential Addiction Treatment Assessment – Call Now!

The Goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The goal of CBT is to help people understand their experiences so that they can make informed decisions regarding their lives. While it is focused on repairing negative thought processes and solving surface issues, it’s also about helping people better understand themselves.

Our perceptions of the world can be affected by our beliefs. For some people, their beliefs can be distressing, and this can lead to negative actions. A CBT therapist can help you understand your actions by examining your thoughts.

In CBT, the idea that our thoughts, emotions, behavior, and body sensations are interrelated is also important. Things that we encounter or do can influence our thinking, emotions, and feelings. For example, if your mind is in a chaotic state, you might feel that the world is in a chaotic state.

Different CBT therapy styles can represent the relationships between different aspects of our thinking, behavior, and emotions.

Finding Your Optimal Level of Thinking Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

According to CBT, people have varying levels of cognition. Therapists can help their clients identify their optimal level of thinking by examining their thoughts at various levels. They can then choose techniques that are most appropriate for their clients.

Near the surface are automatic thoughts, images, or thoughts that we involuntarily generate in response to certain triggers. A feeling or event can trigger these and be biased or accurate.

Our deepest level of cognition lies in our core beliefs, which we may not always talk about. These are often held as factual statements about others or ourselves, but they are opinions based on our experiences and not facts. We aren’t born with these; rather, they are a product of the events we live through.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Biased Thinking

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Biased Thinking

According to cognitive behavioral therapy, our thoughts, beliefs, and rules can be inaccurate or accurate in perceiving the world. A positive thought about how one did well or a negative one about how one did poorly can be considered a valid perspective, but it is not important. It is always possible for bad things to happen to everyone.

How Does Change from CBT Help Drug Abuse and Relapse Prevention?

Trying to avoid negative thoughts or events is not a good idea, as it can actually be counterproductive. Our thinking can be inaccurate, and negative emotions can be triggered by our belief that certain things are inaccurate.

We are also fed incorrect information, which can make our thoughts biased. For instance, if someone is suggestible, they may begin to believe negative thoughts about themselves, even if someone is implying otherwise. Humans think too quickly and, in turn, process information incorrectly.

Selective Abstraction

An example of selective abstraction would be playing a basketball game and making five out of ten shots. Instead of thinking, “I made five shots – I did pretty well,” you would think, “I only made five shots, I’m terrible.”

Have you ever caught yourself thinking this way? The chances are high that you can likely pick out examples right away where you’ve encountered this line of thinking.

These are the types of thought processes that lead to substance abuse – and the type that cognitive-behavioral interventions look to help mitigate.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Icarus Behavioral Health Nevada

At Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada, we have a substantial amount of experience dealing with cognitive behavioral therapy and the issues that it remedies. If you believe that cognitive behavioral therapy might bring you relief and help provide healing, contact a member of our admissions team today. We’re looking for clients just like you!

24 Hour Addiction Rehab Hotline

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy FAQs

How long does CBT take to work? 

The sessions of CBT can last for around 45 minutes to 60 minutes. Clients can maintain their independence through the duration of the treatment, which can last up to six months, depending on the client’s needs. During this period, clients will learn how to question their unhealthy thinking patterns and improve their outlook on life.

That said, it’s estimated that the average CBT therapy runs for about 16 weeks. This is actually quite impressive relative to other forms of treatment and their average duration.

Do you have to attend inpatient treatment to take advantage of CBT? 

Absolutely not. At Icarus Behavioral Health Nevada, we offer CBT as part of all of our varying levels of care. Attending CBT as part of an outpatient program allows you to participate in this form of therapy on just as powerful of a level as if you were in residential treatment. In addition, you can still participate in the same number of daily hours if you’re doing CBT as an outpatient option because of the relatively short duration of the sessions.

Is CBT for long-term use? 

Traditionally, no – CBT is not for long-term use. The treatment was designed with a short-term element in mind and was designed to be particularly fast-acting. It’s not an emergency treatment, but relative to other treatment modalities at any drug and alcohol rehab; it’s likely one of the fastest options for obtaining results over a short period.

The reason it’s not generally used for long-term treatment is that it has a heavily targeted area of focus. Its aim is to drastically improve the way a client feels about themselves, their thoughts, ideas, and situations in life. Once the corrections are made, and a more positive response is elicited during these situations, CBT therapy usually begins to wind down.

Anything else learned during a continued treatment period would reinforce the positive actions already manifested as a result of the initial therapy.

This isn’t to say that reviewing some of the exercises used during CBT wouldn’t be beneficial – in fact; many counselors recommend this as a form of cognitive behavioral intervention if the client begins displaying signs of potentially suffering from a relapse.

Can you participate in CBT in a group therapy setting? 

Technically, yes, you could. However, it’s not recommended for a group therapy environment. This is because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy takes a very personal and introspective approach that’s much better suited as a one-on-one model with you and a counselor.

If CBT was attempted in a group setting, it would be difficult for many clients to focus on root of the challenges they have internally. In addition, there would potentially be privacy concerns with CBT in a group setting.

Therapies that tend to be more successful in a group setting include family therapy, holistic forms of treatment such as art therapy, equine therapy, surf therapy, and other types of treatment that include group activities.

Do most insurance companies pay for CBT? 

Yes, normally, CBT is included in most insurance companies’ plans and is at least partially covered under most companies and plans. That said, if you have any questions regarding your insurance company specifically and whether they pay for services at Icarus Behavioral Health Nevada. We’re glad to assist in any way possible whenever you need assistance.