Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Addiction

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Addiction

There are a variety of treatments used to help people to recover from an addiction. Whilst medication and detox is critical in the early days of recovery, therapy is essential to break the dependence that makes a social drinker into an alcoholic.

One of the most commonly used type of therapies for alcoholics is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive behavioural therapy dates back to the early 1920’s, where what was known as ‘behavioural therapy’ was used to help children who exhibited certain unusual fears and phobias. This practice was later combined with cognitive therapy (a form of therapy dedicated to helping patients challenge beliefs and thought patterns) in the 1960’s to create the version of CBT we know today.

CBT looks at the negative thoughts and emotions we associate with situations and how this affects the way that we feel and behave. In therapy you are taught to challenge these negative thoughts so that you can stop repeating behaviours and, in effect, break the cycle.

In addiction treatment, CBT teaches you to recognise not only the situations in which you are most likely to use drink or drugs, but also the associated thoughts and feelings that led you to rely on these substances in the first place.

Treatment components

There are two main phases to CBT treatment, and it is crucial that you undertake all of the therapy in order to both understand yourself and break the pattern.


The more difficult stage for many, during analysis you work with your therapist to identify the negative thoughts and feelings that lead to and spring from your drinking. You may also discuss the things that have happened in your past which led you to develop an alcohol addiction in the first place. This stage helps your therapist to understand why you are drinking, and what circumstances in the future might tempt you to relapse.

Skills training

You may start to feel more positive during this second phase, where you start to learn new ways of thinking, unlearn your old, unhealthy habits and develop positive coping skills to help you to avoid alcohol in the future. This helps to provide you with everything you need to build a new life without drugs or alcohol when you leave rehab.

Benefits of CBT

  • CBT is a positive form of therapy for many struggling with addiction, and is fairly effective when combined with other forms of complementary therapies. Benefits include:
  • CBT is a safe, non-invasive form of therapy. There are no medications necessary to complete this treatment and it is not generally confrontational in a way that would cause your mental health to suffer when you are feeling your most vulnerable.
  • CBT acknowledges the past whilst helping you to build skills and a plan for the future. You are able to accept and confront things that have happened – which can be difficult for an alcoholic who holds many feelings of guilt and shame – but with a positive intention to make things different.
  • CBT helps you to develop skills for positive thinking and making healthy choices that will help outside of your addiction recovery as well, so that you are able to heal many areas of your life.
  • CBT requires the patient to do a lot of homework outside of sessions, so it helps to keep the good work that they are doing in sessions at the forefront of their minds. When undergoing CBT you are likely to keep a diary and be more mindful of what you are thinking and feeling that you would usually be.
  • CBT helps to build self-esteem, which is often at rock bottom when you are going through addiction recovery.


Various studies have been done to test the effectiveness of CBT and try to understand how it works.

A 2004 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that cognitive behavioural therapy might be effective in reducing problems associated with drug addiction because it helps to modify both the limbic system and the cortical region of the brain.

The limbic system is associated with emotion, memory and motivation, meaning that this type of therapy is useful for reducing alcohol-induced issues such as anger and memory loss. Meanwhile, the cortical region of the brain is linked to attention, perception and awareness, helping former addicts to regain focus and drive.

Another study, completed in 2009 and published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, identified changes in brain activity in CBT patients suffering from anxiety disorders. Neuroimaging techniques were used to detect visible changes in the circuits of the brain that are associated with negative brain activity such as fear.

The study stated “The literature shows that many mental disorders are involved with the inability to control fear and difficulty in regulating negative emotions,” meaning that disorders such as alcoholism can effectively be treated with CBT.

In most cases, cognitive behavioural therapy will be used in conjunction with other therapies to deal with addiction, because addiction is such a complicated issue to deal with. CBT works by challenging the ‘all or nothing’ thinking associated with those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but physically the body requires medication and other forms of therapy to recover and break the connection.

Cassiobury Court

Cassiobury Court provides cognitive behavioural therapies alongside various other complementary therapies. Treatment begins with a full evaluation and any medications that you might need when you start your rehabilitation journey. You’ll be able to access a wide range of services to help you on your path out of addiction, including a dedicated 12 month aftercare programme which includes a 24/7 recovery team access and a tailored recovery plan to help you to deal with the difficult first steps into your new life free of addiction.

Cassiobury Court is a comfortable and safe setting in which you can detox and attend therapy, as well as meet other people like yourself whom you can work in collaboration with during group therapies.

If you want to know more, we can be reached on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222.