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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Alcohol Addiction

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Alcohol Addiction

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been shown to be a very effective and reliable method of treating alcoholism and drug addiction. It has proven to be more effective when it is part of an overall program of recovery. CBT is a short-term, focused therapeutic approach to helping drug-dependent people become abstinent. It mimics the same processes you used to develop alcohol and drug dependence in the first place.

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

CBT uses the knowledge that what brings about one’s feelings and behaviors are one’s thoughts and not external things like people. People can change the way they think in order to feel better and act differently. This fact is true even if their external situation does not change. CBT is rooted in the idea that while we may not be able to change our circumstances, we can change the way we think about them. This can help you to change how you feel and behave. 

The goal of CBT in the treatment of alcohol and drug dependence is to:

  • Enlighten the patient and help recognize situations (triggers) in which they are most likely to drink or use drugs.
  • Avoid these circumstances if possible.
  • Cope with other behaviors and problems which may lead to their substance abuse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Alcoholism

CBT for alcoholism deals with specific problems. It uses a goal-oriented collaborative approach. It is a short-term treatment lasting for about 10 to 20 sessions with an average 16 sessions. Individuals are given weekly assignments that bring about faster and more effective results. There are several approaches to cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapy could be for cognitive reasons, dialectic behavior, rational behavior, rational living and rational emotive behavior.

CBT typically involves three steps notwithstanding the approach. These steps are:

  • Identifying the problem.
  • Identifying beliefs, thoughts, and emotions related to the problem.
  • Changing the negative or inaccurate beliefs, thoughts and emotions about the problem.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Different

CBT differs from other types of psychotherapies because they employ a definite structure during their sessions rather than have the person talking freely about whatever comes to mind. The client meets the therapist to describe specific problems and to set achievable goals at the beginning of the therapy. It is these problems and goals that then determines how the content of sessions will be planned and discussed. They also refer to and build on conclusions from previous sessions. They monitor the progress made by assessing the homework the client had set the last time. At the end of each session, they choose another assignment to do outside of the sessions.

The homework in CBT for alcoholism usually involves keeping a daily record of cravings to drink and what triggers them. Later assignments are usually focused on avoiding those triggers or to reduce cravings when they occur. CBT is efficient because of the homework and the structure of the sessions.

What Are the Components of CBT?

CBT has two main components in its use to treat alcoholism. They are:

  • functional analysis and
  • skills training.

Functional Analysis: Here, the therapist and individual work together to identify the thoughts, feelings, and circumstances that caused the drinking problem and the aftermath. They will then be able to determine what factors can lead to a relapse. This analysis can also give the individual insight into why they drink or use drugs in the first place. This helps identify situations in which the person has coping difficulties. 

Skills Training: Individuals might have gotten to a stage where they use alcohol as their main means of coping with problems. If this is the case, CBT will teach the person to unlearn old habits and learn better-coping skills. Using CBT has an added advantage because the skills developed can easily also be applied to other problems in life.


CBT approaches alcohol dependence by identifying unhelpful and unrealistic thoughts and beliefs that may cause alcohol dependence. CBT for alcoholism has proven to be very effective. If you think you have an alcohol problem, CBT may be good for you.

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