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CBT: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps People Talk It Out

What is CBT?

CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a form of talk therapy that's highly effective in treating addiction and other mental health disorders.

Psychotherapy: Now, there’s a heavy word.

It’s why a lot of people in the recovery world prefer the term “talk therapy.”

Basically, psychotherapy helps people treat their mental disorders and addiction by talking and interacting with a professional. One of the most popular forms of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy, better known by its abbreviation: CBT.

CBT plays an essential role in drug rehab by helping individuals identify and change the negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to addiction. CBT is a type of talk therapy that is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. Individuals can change their behaviors and overcome addiction by altering negative thought patterns.

CBT: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps People Talk It Out

An average of 265 people are estimated to have overdosed on drugs each day in 2020–2021, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, up to 90% of people who need drug treatment do not get it.

What Is CBT?

CBT is a kind of psychological therapy that is usually used to assist people in overcoming addiction in drug rehabilitation programs. The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is that emotions, behaviors, and thoughts are interconnected, and that bad thought patterns can result in unpleasant behaviors and emotions.

Typically, CBT in drug rehab involves a qualified therapist working with the patient to identify unfavorable thought patterns and behaviors that may be causing their addiction. After that, the therapist works with the patient to replace the negative thought patterns and behaviors with new, more positive ones.

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What Does CBT Treat?

CBT can treat various addiction-related problems, such as triggers, cravings, and underlying mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety. Also, it can be utilized to educate people on coping methods and problem-solving techniques that they might use to sustain their sobriety in the long run.

According to research, CBT can be used to treat addiction independently and with other types of therapy, such as medication-assisted treatment and support groups. It is often a component of a comprehensive drug rehabilitation program designed to meet the needs and circumstances of the client.

In CBT, the patient and therapist work to identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and come up with solutions to replace them with more constructive ones. This is often done over the course of a planned series of sessions. The therapy can be provided in a group environment or one-on-one.

How Does CBT Work?

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that tries to assist people in recognizing and altering harmful thought and behavior patterns that contribute to mental health issues. CBT is a highly structured and goal-oriented therapy that typically involves several different therapeutic techniques and strategies, including:

CBT: Cognitive Restructuring

This process includes assisting people in recognizing and overcoming harmful thought patterns or cognitive biases that contribute to their mental health issues. For instance, a person suffering from depression could have a negative thought pattern that makes them feel insignificant and that nothing they do would ever matter. The therapist would engage with the patient to challenge this negative thought pattern and replace it with a more sensible and constructive one.

CBT: Behavioral Activation

This method encourages people to participate in pleasurable or rewarding activities even when they don't like them. Over time, this may assist in elevating mood and boosting drive.

CBT: Exposure Therapy

This method, used to treat anxiety disorders, includes exposing patients to their fears over time in a safe and controlled setting. This can help people become less sensitive to their worries and feel less anxious when they are exposed to specific triggers.

CBT: Relaxation Training

To manage stress and reduce anxiety, this method involves teaching people mindfulness and relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

CBT: Social Skills Training

This method involves teaching people social skills like assertiveness or active listening to enhance interpersonal connections and reduce social anxiety.

CBT: Problem-Solving Therapy

This procedure involves assisting people in systematically and successfully identifying difficulties. Over time, this can aid in coping abilities development and stress reduction.

CBT is a flexible and dynamic therapy that may be customized to each person's unique requirements and objectives. The therapist and the client will create a unique treatment strategy for their circumstances and preferences.

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What Are the Benefits of CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that tries to recognize and alter undesirable thought patterns and behavior that cause psychological suffering. CBT has been thoroughly examined and has emerged as a successful treatment for several mental health issues. Here are some of the benefits of CBT:

CBT: It’s Evidence-Based

CBT is a well-established treatment with a solid evidence base. Numerous studies have shown its effectiveness in treating:

CBT: It Focuses on the Present

CBT concentrates on the present compared to other therapies that delve into the past. Instead of dwelling on past traumas or incidents, the objective is to recognize and alter distressing negative thoughts and behavior patterns.

CBT: It’s Quick

Since CBT is usually a brief form of therapy, clients can quickly experience improvements in their mental health. 12 to 20 weeks is the typical length of CBT sessions.

CBT: It Helps People Work Together

The client and therapist work together to implement CBT. Clients actively define therapy objectives, recognize harmful tendencies, and develop solutions to change them.

CBT: It’s Tailored to Individual Needs

CBT can be customized to fit each client's needs. Therapists can modify the course of treatment to address each client's unique symptoms and circumstances.

CBT: Teaches Practical Skills

With the help of CBT, patients can control their symptoms even outside therapy sessions by learning useful skills. These abilities include calming down, solving problems, and using efficient communication techniques.

CBT: It Helps Prevent Relapse

CBT can be effective in preventing relapse for some mental health conditions. By teaching clients practical skills to manage their symptoms, they are better equipped to maintain their mental health in the long term.

CBT: It Can Be Delivered in Various Settings

CBT can be shown in various settings, including individual therapy, group therapy, and online therapy. This flexibility allows individuals to access treatment that suits their needs and preferences.

CBT: It Works with Various Medications

To address mental health issues, CBT can be combined with medication. Studies have demonstrated that CBT and medicine work better together than they do separately.

CBT is a collaborative, practical, evidence-based, short-term therapy that can be customized to meet each client's needs. It can successfully prevent relapse and teaches clients how to control their symptoms practically. CBT has a strong evidence base supporting its efficacy and can be used with medicines.

How Long Does CBT Last?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy often limited by time or intended to be completed within a set amount of time. The type and severity of the issue being treated, the client's specific requirements and goals, and the therapist's treatment plan are a few of the variables that affect how long CBT takes. 

CBT sessions are typically held once or twice a week, lasting anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks. This time range is chosen because it is believed that by concentrating on the client's current problems and symptoms, significant progress can be made within this time. 

Together, the client and therapist will create a treatment plan during the first few sessions and determine the client's goals for therapy. This strategy will outline the precise methods and techniques to be applied in therapy to deal with the client's issues. 

CBT: Working Together for Success

Over the course of treatment, the client and therapist will work together to implement the strategies and techniques outlined in the treatment plan. The therapist will help the client learn new coping skills, challenge negative thought patterns, and modify problematic behaviors. The client will be expected to practice these skills between sessions, and progress will be regularly assessed and monitored. 

After completing the treatment plan, the client and therapist will collaborate to create a strategy for retaining the treatment results. This could include practicing coping skills, frequent follow-ups with the therapist, or other methods to avoid relapse. 

Thus, the duration of CBT might vary depending on the client's specific requirements and objectives, but it typically lasts 12 to 20 weeks and includes weekly or biweekly sessions. The aim is to assist the client in achieving their treatment objectives within the allotted time frame while also providing them with the abilities and methods necessary to sustain their mental health in the long run.

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How Is CBT Used in Drug Rehab?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can work on both the mind and body in drug rehab. Here's how:


The first step in CBT is often psychoeducation, which involves educating individuals about the nature of addiction and how it affects the brain and behavior. This can help individuals better understand the underlying mechanisms of their addiction, which can help them develop more effective coping strategies.


The therapist would often evaluate once clients have a basic understanding of addiction to pinpoint particular thought and behavior patterns contributing to substance use. This may entail conducting a structured interview to identify triggers and stressors or requesting the person to journal their thoughts and actions linked to substance use.


CBT assists people in recognizing and challenging harmful thought patterns that support substance use. CBT can help people improve their mental health and reduce the likelihood of relapse by detecting these tendencies and changing them with more constructive and adaptable thinking.


Drug abuse can alter the brain and nervous system, among other critical physical impacts on the body. By giving people practical coping strategies to deal with cravings and triggers and methods to reduce stress and anxiety, CBT can help people control these physical consequences.

Mind-Body Connection

According to CBT, treating the body and the mind is essential for a full recovery because there is a strong link between both. People can also enhance their mental health and lower their chance of recurrence by reducing stress and anxiety using methods like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Addressing Co-Occurring Conditions

Also, co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety or depression that can drive substance abuse can be effectively treated with CBT. Individuals can enhance their mental and physical health by treating these issues through treatment.

Improving Overall Health

Ultimately, CBT can support people in making beneficial lifestyle choices like regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and sufficient sleep to enhance their overall health and well-being. CBT can assist people in achieving and maintaining their recovery over the long term by addressing the mind and body in this manner.

During drug rehabilitation, CBT impacts the mind by providing psychoeducation, evaluating specific patterns of thinking and behavior related to substance use, identifying unfavorable thoughts and beliefs, engaging in behavioral activation, teaching coping mechanisms, and creating relapse prevention plans. Individuals can improve their coping mechanisms, achieve long-term recovery, and maintain it by changing their negative thoughts and behavior patterns.

What Are the Alternatives to CBT?

While cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used and effective therapy for various mental health conditions, it is not the only option available. Here are some alternative therapies to CBT:

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

This type of therapy is often used to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder but can also be effective for substance use disorders. DBT combines CBT techniques, mindfulness practices, emotion regulation, and interpersonal skills training.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

This therapy strongly emphasizes acceptance and mindfulness, assisting patients in recognizing and accepting their thoughts and emotions without passing judgment on them while also resolving to modify their behavior for the better. In addition to treating substance use disorders, ACT is frequently used to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

This treatment is client-centered and focuses on examining and addressing resistance to change. At the beginning of therapy, MI can be beneficial when patients resist change or doubt their willingness to stop using drugs.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

This mindfulness-based therapy involves meditation and other mindfulness practices to reduce stress and improve self-awareness. For people with drug use disorders, MBSR can be helpful because it can help them manage stress and other factors that lead to substance use.

12-Step Programs

While not technically a therapy, 12-step programs are a widely used and effective option for individuals with substance use disorders. These programs focus on spirituality, self-awareness, and peer support in recovery.

Psychodynamic Therapy

This type of treatment analyzes cognitive dissonance and behavioral patterns that could be responsible for mental health issues or substance use disorders. Those who have experienced trauma or have attachment problems may benefit from psychodynamic therapy because it can help them understand their emotions and interpersonal interactions.

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The Edge Treatment Center Uses CBT & More to Effectively Treat Addiction

The Edge Treatment Center offers a range of CBT techniques, including individual therapy sessions, group therapy, and family therapy, as well as specialized programs for specific types of substance use disorders, such as alcoholism, opioid addiction, or cocaine addiction. 

Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, we offer various levels of care, including a robust aftercare program. We provide a comprehensive and research-based approach to treating substance use disorders. It offers a secure and supportive atmosphere where people can receive the treatment and assistance they require to rehabilitate successfully and regain control over their lives.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of evidence-based care like CBT and more, please reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Addiction Recovery

Treatment Professional

October 14, 2023