Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Abuse

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often effective in the treatment and recovery of substance users. But what is it? What is entailed in this type of therapy? How does it work?

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is an evidence-based therapy that relates to how our thoughts affect our beliefs, which affect our behaviors. It is usually a short-term, structured, solution-oriented form of therapy that is effective for substance users. Simply put, we may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can change how we think about them.

For recovering substance users, CBT is particularly helpful as it teaches them how to recognize situations in which they are most likely to drink or use drugs, how to avoid those situations if and when possible, and how to cope and manage the problems and behaviors that lead to substance abuse.

How Does CBT Help Substance Users?

By understanding how our thoughts influence our beliefs which influence our behavior, we can see the beginning of the path to substance abuse. CBT is structured to assist the user in recovery to “see the light” and learn how to change their thoughts and perceptions. The two main elements of CBT are:


The therapist and the patient determine why the user is abusing a substance. This involves identifying the thoughts, feelings, and actions to substance abuse and how to change them. This step explores the risks and provides insight into the user’s mind.


People tend to use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with life’s challenges. This step involves actively finding new ways to cope with what life can throw at us. It involves unlearning old coping habits and learning new ones. It entails steps the user can take that leads to a healthier, sober life.

Who Can Benefit from CBT?

CBT benefits a diverse range of disorders because it is rooted in a person’s thoughts and perceptions of the circumstances in their life. Substance users in recovery can learn how to recognize the thoughts that lead them to use.

People who are diagnosed with a dual diagnosis can benefit from CBT. Clients participate in their therapy both in session and out of the session with homework to do.

CBT is beneficial for many people coping with various mental health and substance abuse issues. It is useful for:

  • People coping with depression
  • People coping with anxiety
  • People struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • People who use drugs and alcohol to cope with all of the above and/or other circumstances

Why CBT Helps with Depression and Anxiety

Many therapist prefer to treat anxiety and depression via CBT because it gives patients tools to treat themselves. Since only MDs and nurse practitioners can prescribe antidepressants or antianxiety pills, it’s important for therapists to give patients the tools to control their mindset and organically deal with their disorders.

The Behavioral Aspect of CBT

Conditioning is a critical part of behaviorism. The goal is to teach patients to reward themselves for a positive behavior and have tactics to cope with symptoms as they arise. Getting patients into a routine eventually conditions the mind. Here’s a simple but effective tactic: When a negative thought pops up, counteract it by writing a positive one down.

Another behavioral therapy for anxiety involves slowly introducing a patient to the conditions that make them anxious. Regarding SAD, support groups can be particularly helpful. Patients learn there is a safe space among other people, so they can feel more confident about their everyday endeavors.

man with hand on shoulder of a friend

The Cognitive Aspect of CBT

Some great exercises can help patients understand and treat their dual disorders. One of the best methods that therapists use to help patients is journaling, which allows patients to see how their thoughts are working and gives therapists insight into their patients’ minds. The key to successful cognitive therapy is having the patient change their thought processes.

Combining changing thought processes with behaviors gives patients a great opportunity to be successful. In several psychological and psychiatric journals, CBT is considered highly effective, so it’s the go-to therapy because it doesn’t involve medication or other modalities.

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health disorder and an addiction, there is help. Delphi Behavioral Health Group offers therapies that can turn the tide of negative tide and perceptions that lead to substance abuse into positive and useful swells.