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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of many therapies used in alcohol rehab programs to help people recover from alcohol use disorder. Many who suffer from alcohol addiction practice unhealthy behaviors that must be changed in order to achieve long-term sobriety. CBT helps people with alcohol use disorder change these negative thought-processes and behaviors so they can successfully navigate daily life without the need for alcohol.

Here’s how CBT works at alcohol rehab, and what you can do today to find safe, effective alcohol addiction treatment.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a type of behavioral therapy that helps people identify feelings and situations that may initially have led to heavy drinking and alcohol abuse. This therapy is useful at helping patients and their therapists identify the root cause of alcohol addiction so it can be fully addressed to help patients experience lasting recovery. For example, if a person initially started drinking alcohol to cope with stress, their therapist and other addiction treatment professionals can work with them on finding new, healthier ways to manage stress without turning to alcohol.

CBT for alcohol use disorder often includes the following strategies: identification of relapse triggers, analysis of alcohol use, the teaching of coping skills and alcohol refusal skills, and increasing time spent on sober activities. Many of the skills patients learn from CBT can be applied to their everyday lives after completing an alcohol rehab program. CBT can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups, and usually happens following completion of an alcohol detox program.

CBT is often more engaging compared to many other types of psychotherapy. Patients tend to talk more than their therapists during individual and group CBT sessions, and collaborate with therapists one-on-one to address specific problems. It is included in most alcohol rehab programs, including residential, inpatient, and outpatient programs.

Why is CBT a Common Addiction Treatment?

Every type of substance use disorder—including alcohol use disorder—can be tough to overcome without relapsing at least once. Relapse rates for substance use disorders are between 40 and 60%, which is lower than that of other chronic illnesses like asthma and high blood pressure. While relapsing is common and normal, this behavior can be dangerous and fatal for some individuals—especially for those who revert to previous behaviors and drink high amounts that can lead to intoxication or poisoning.

CBT is commonly used in addiction treatment because it teaches patients how to identify, cope with, and avoid triggers. Being aware of triggers and knowing what they are can help patients strategize and prepare for situations that may lead to relapse and drinking. For instance, if driving by a local neighborhood bar triggers a person’s urge to stop for a drink, they can plan on taking a different route in the future to avoid that particular trigger. 

CBT is one of the most valuable behavioral therapies patients can receive at alcohol rehab due to the way it can help them stay sober and safe from relapse. Evidence suggests that the skills learned with CBT will stay with patients long after they complete their alcohol rehab programs.

What Attitudes and Skills Can Patients Learn in CBT?

CBT places a strong emphasis on long-term maintenance and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Patients who receive CBT at alcohol rehab can learn how to master the following skills and attitudes:

  • Distract themselves from cravings by engaging in constructive activities such as writing, journaling, exercising, attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and communicating with friends and family
  • Identify dysfunctional and harmful beliefs and thoughts, and replace them with healthier, more positive thoughts
  • Develop and practice responses when offered a drink or an invitation to drink
  • Solve problems effectively without turning to alcohol as a solution or remedy
  • Understand the pros and cons of alcohol use, versus the pros and cons of sobriety
  • Practice self-respect and overcome negative feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Avoid negative influences and use healthy social supports such as peers at alcohol rehab and AA, and friends and relatives who support abstinence from alcohol
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes that support abstinence from alcohol and that improve well-being, such as exercising regularly, engaging in meaningful hobbies and sober activities, and eating healthy foods
What Other Treatments are Combined with CBT?

CBT is often combined with other behavioral therapies that promote long-term abstinence from alcohol. Many times, the skills learned with CBT can complement those gained from other therapies.

CBT may be combined with motivational enhancement therapy, family counseling, and brief interventions. Motivational enhancement therapy helps patients develop the confidence and motivation they need to change their drinking behavior. Family counseling helps patients repair and improve relationships that may have suffered on behalf of alcohol addiction. Brief interventions are short counseling sessions that take place one-on-one or in groups, and teach patients about drinking patterns and related risks.

Some alcohol rehab centers combine CBT with fun, enjoyable recreational therapies such as equine, music, and art therapy. Twelve-step support group meetings like AA may also be combined with CBT.

In some instances, CBT is combined with medications for a more positive treatment outcome. The use of medications combined with behavioral therapy in alcohol addiction treatment is known as medication-assisted treatment. Disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone are the most commonly used medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Disulfiram produces unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed, while acamprosate reduces the desire to drink alcohol. Naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol so people who relapse won’t experience alcohol’s pleasurable effects.

What Else Can Be Treated with CBT?

In essence, CBT is a psychotherapy that focuses on improving one’s mental health. This behavioral therapy is also commonly used to treat mental health disorders such as anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and OCD. Roughly 50% of people who are diagnosed with substance use disorders are also diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and vice versa. This is known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.

CBT can be used to help people with co-occurring disorders realize that their behaviors and emotions may not be rational or logical. This can often help improve symptoms related to mental illness, such as stress and depression. Additionally, many harmful behaviors, thoughts, and emotions stem from misconceptions and feelings of fear and self-doubt—all of which can lead to drinking as a form of self-medication. CBT addresses the root cause of these problems to help patients effectively cope with symptoms of mental illness and successfully recover from alcohol addiction.

Recovering from Alcohol Addiction at Summer House

Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in Florida in a luxury setting where patients can relax and enjoy top-notch amenities as they recover from alcohol dependence. Our patients fly in from all over the country to take part in our alcohol detox program, and to benefit from services including massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, and full-course meals prepared by a 4-star chef. We offer AA meetings on the premises and can refer you to a recovery program that offers CBT following alcohol detox.

If you or a loved one is in need of alcohol detox in West Palm Beachcontact Summer House Detox Center at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our alcohol rehab programs and begin recovery today. You can also visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.