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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and How Is It Used in Teen Addiction Treatment?

Teen addiction

“Why does a substance abuser need therapy to tell them to stop drinking or taking drugs?”

That is a sentiment expressed by people who do not understand how therapy or addiction work. After all, if it were that simple, nobody would be addicted to drugs or alcohol, right?

For teen addicts, one of the cornerstones of rehab or drug treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is sometimes called “talk therapy.” Among all the types of therapy out there, CBT tends to deliver as good or superior results for adolescents who are struggling with a substance abuse problem.

How Does CBT Work?

Cognitive behavioral therapy involves an addict and a therapist meeting in one-on-one sessions in a private setting, usually in the therapist’s office. Generally, these sessions are 45-60 minutes in length and take place once or twice a week for between four and twelve months. Each session is somewhat structured so that the therapist can adequately address the patient’s issues in the time allotted.

Depending on the addict, CBT can be prescribed in conjunction with other therapies such as:

  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Fitness training
  • Meditation activities
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

Also, it is not uncommon for a therapist to assign “homework” to his or her patients. These (usually written) assignments encourage the patient to answer specific questions related to his or her situation, and these answers form the basis of a discussion at the following therapy session.

What Do Therapists and Addicts Talk About?

A cognitive behavioral therapist will usually begin a treatment regimen by trying to determine the negative thoughts or harmful core beliefs which are consistently running through the patient’s mind. Once these thoughts are identified, the therapist can help the patient can use logic and reasoning to combat them. 

In addition, therapists will ask patients how these negative thoughts make them feel. Then they help “train” addicts to recognize these feelings and then consciously change their mood using relaxation techniques or rehearsed affirmations.

Once bad thoughts and feelings are acknowledged, the patient can start to alter his or her undesirable behaviors (such as turning to drugs or alcohol). Ideally, the therapist will try to break the pattern of thoughts/feelings/behaviors and help the patient see his or her life in a new light.

Teen addiction

Why CBT is Effective for Teen Addicts

For over 30 years, healthcare professionals have extolled the advantages of how CBT works in addiction treatment. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy on people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. That is why the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends CBT for teens as an addiction recovery treatment.

Some of the benefits associated with CBT include:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Better interpersonal communication
  • Interruption of thoughts and feelings that lead to substance abuse or addiction
  • Alteration of negative patterns of thought
  • Identification of healthy responses to stressful thoughts or situations
  • Reduction of fears and phobias
  • Formulation of helpful coping strategies

Finally, CBT can play a role in helping to identify any co-occurring disorders or mental illnesses substance abusers might be suffering from so that the necessary steps can be taken to address these conditions. Also, addicts can begin a regimen of cognitive behavioral therapy while in rehab, and then continue the therapy for several weeks as a follow-up treatment after they complete their rehab program. 

Teen addicts who have gone through cognitive behavioral therapy tend to speak highly of their experience because it lets them express their feelings in a relaxed environment to an open-minded, non-judgmental person who knows how to help them. Once they discover the feelings or thoughts that are contributing to their addiction, it becomes easier to resist the temptation of drugs or alcohol – hopefully on a permanent basis.

If you think that cognitive behavioral therapy can help your teen, contact us today for information on finding a therapist near you.

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