Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Part of addiction treatment includes the use of evidence-based therapies, one of them being cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT.1 CBT can help people going through addiction treatment learn new skills and change the way they think about addiction, among other benefits.1

This page will explain what CBT is, including core principles of CBT, how it works, and how it is used in the treatment of substance use disorders.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an umbrella term for a group of psychotherapies that have been proven to be effective in treating a variety of disorders, including:2

  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Depression.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Substance use disorders (addiction).

CBT recognizes that how a person thinks, feels, and behaves are connected and can collectively influence the other, and that together the combination can have a significant impact on an individual’s well-being and quality of life.3

Core Principles of CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy rests on the foundation of several core principles, which include:2

  • Certain patterns of unhelpful or inaccurate ways of thinking can play a role in the development and persistence of psychological difficulties.
  • Behavior is learned and maladaptive behavioral patterns can contribute to mental health concerns.
  • Both thoughts and behaviors are learned and can be unlearned and replaced with more helpful patterns.

CBT empowers people to make healthier changes in patterns of thinking and behavior. Individuals struggling with mental health concerns and other related issues, such as substance use disorders, can develop effective coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.2

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT is a collaborative process between the therapist and patient. Sessions will vary, depending on the client’s needs and treatment goals.2 The therapeutic process of CBT includes an array of strategies that help patients identify challenges and build skills that can help resolve dysfunction. These can include:2

  • Identifying and reframing cognitive distortions into more realistic and adaptive ones.
  • Equipping patients with effective strategies for navigating challenges that may come up.
  • Learning to confront fears head on, rather than using avoidance or escapism.
  • Learning self-management techniques, such as mindfulness, to foster emotional control and well-being.

Each person’s experience with CBT is unique to them and based on their needs, challenges, and treatment goals. The framework of CBT is consistent but allows for personalization and target goals. A typical session might include:5

  • Goal identification: Patient and therapist work collaboratively to pinpoint specific issues and desired outcomes. Priority concerns are tackled first.
  • Check-in: Each session starts with a mood assessment and a recap of events since the last meeting. This includes reviewing any past “homework” assignments.
  • Agenda-driven work: The core of the session revolves around tackling the issues identified. Therapist and patient discuss these issues, work through them, and provide feedback.
  • Summary and homework: The therapist wraps up the session with a summary of the session and may assign new tasks to practice between sessions.

CBT for Substance Use Disorders

Behavioral therapies, like CBT,  have been shown to be effective in treating substance use disorders when used as a standalone therapy and when used in combination with other treatment approaches.1 Researchers have found CBT to be an effective therapy for addiction,and CBT-based interventions can include:1

  • Motivational interventions: These address ambivalence about entering treatment and other motivational challenges.
  • Contingency management: A behavioral intervention that focuses on immediate, tangible rewards to reinforce abstinence and motivate continued progress.
  • Relapse prevention: The focus of which is learning healthy ways of responding to triggers to relapse, teaching strategies to minimize and avoid triggers to relapse, and changing the way you think about the positive effects of substances.

Benefits of CBT During Treatment

CBT empowers individuals with tangible tools and skills to navigate recovery and achieve positive outcomes. These include: 1

  • Building self-awareness by identifying and challenging negative thoughts, and unmasking triggers.
  • Learning more helpful ways to think and respond to challenging circumstances.
  • Developing new and helpful coping skills that do not include the use of substances.
  • Preparing for lasting change by setting goals and teaching skills that can help mitigate the risk of relapse.

Does Insurance Cover CBT?

Many treatment programs provide cognitive behavioral therapy as part of a comprehensive SUD treatment approach. Therefore, if you find a treatment program that accepts your insurance, CBT will most likely be covered. It is important to check with your insurance provider to determine your insurance coverage. You can also contact the treatment facility or verify your insurance online.

CBT and Addiction Treatment at AdCare

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available to you. At AdCare, an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Rhode Island, we understand the importance of providing high-quality, evidence-based treatment to those struggling with SUDs to get them on the road to recovery and living a life they deserve.

We offer comprehensive addiction treatment and have compassionate admissions navigators available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call our admissions navigators at to get answers for your questions about treatment, help you start the admissions process, and verify your insurance coverage for addiction treatment, or discuss other ways to pay for rehab.

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