How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Treatment Help Me Overcome Addiction?

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Calendar icon Last Updated: 09/15/2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

While the physical discomfort that comes with detox withdrawal can be hard to miss, the psychological aftereffects of substance abuse can be especially hard to spot for someone just starting out in recovery. In essence, addiction lives inside a person’s mindset, warping his or her thoughts and behaviors. Likewise, the aftereffects of addiction can persist for months or even years into the recovery process.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment plays a pivotal role in helping those in recovery undo the damaging effects of the addiction lifestyle. In effect, cognitive-behavioral therapy equips a person with the tools and strategies needed to develop and maintain a drug-free lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

First developed in the 1960s, cognitive-behavioral therapy takes a head-on approach to helping you identify the destructive belief systems that give rise to addiction, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Destructive belief systems consist of specific thinking patterns that dictate one’s feelings regarding self, which inevitably effects how a person interacts with others. Cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment combines two therapy approaches in one: cognitive therapy and behavior therapy.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy addresses how destructive belief systems influence a person’s emotional state and subsequent behaviors. The overall aim of cognitive therapy works to help you uncover the irrational thinking patterns that cause inner turmoil. By challenging the logic behind these faulty belief systems, a person can begin the process of dismantling the mindset that supports addiction-based behaviors.

Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy deals directly with the unhealthy behavior patterns that pave the way for addiction-based actions to unfold. According to New York University School of Medicine, behavior patterns stem from conditioned responses to people and events that were learned as a part of childhood conditioning. Behavior therapy helps a person replace maladaptive or addiction-based behavior patterns with behaviors that can support a drug-free lifestyle.

Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Confronting Denial

Once a full-blown addiction takes hold, denial becomes one of the belief systems that work to validate drug-using behaviors. Likewise, denial comes equipped with its own set of thinking, emotion and behavior-based patterns, all of which drive drug-using behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy enables you to see an addiction problem for what it is and take the necessary step towards replacing this belief system with a health mindset.

Developing Healthy Coping Skills

While the initial “high” effects that come with drug abuse may prompt a person’s early experiences, over time, he or she “learns” to use drugs as a means for coping with daily life pressures and problems. Not surprisingly, a big part of the addiction recovery process entails developing healthy coping skills for managing everyday life. Cognitive behavioral therapy enables you to develop the type of coping skills that eliminate the need to turn to drugs.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Within any given day, a person may encounter any number of reminders of his or her drug-using days. These reminders, be they people, places or experiences, act as cues or triggers that set addiction-based thinking in motion. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify the things that pose the greatest threat to your ongoing abstinence and develop strategies for how to handle various situations.


It’s not uncommon for someone who’s completed detox treatment to consider him or herself “cured” of addiction. Detox only treats the body’s physical dependence on drugs, leaving the mind’s psychological drug dependency well intact. Without ongoing treatment, the likelihood of relapse is almost certain. Cognitive-behavioral therapy picks up where detox leaves off, helping you eliminate the destructive mindset that drives drug-using behaviors.