There are multiple approaches that counselors may take when working with patients who have addiction issues. Many commonly used counseling techniques are forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT is based on recognizing the relationship between thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behavior.
The philosophy that underlies CBT is that people act the way they do because of what they think and feel and that these thoughts and feelings often arise from beliefs that are untrue or unhealthy. The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes, for example, that someone suffering from depression may hold the belief “I am worthless.” Someone with panic disorder may believe “I am in danger.”
Some counseling approaches, such as traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, are primarily focused on analyzing the past. In contrast, CBT is focused on the present and on a problem that needs to be addressed. Patients may need to look to the past to help them understand the core beliefs they may have developed, but the focus is on changing thought patterns and modifying the future. CBT may be used alone, or in combination with other therapies or medications.
Components of CBT
CBT generally involves the following:
Identifying emotions – People often experience emotions they do not fully bring to conscious awareness. In CBT, patients are encouraged to focus on them and to identify them correctly. This may involve paying attention to physical as well as emotional sensations. A racing heart and rapid breathing, for example, may signal anger or anxiety. Fatigue and body aches may be associated with depression.
- Recognizing thoughts – As with the emotions we experience, the thoughts that drive our behaviors often exist below our conscious awareness. In CBT, they are brought to the surface. They are generally tied to our emotional responses. Someone experiencing anger, for example, may have the associated thought, “I’m being treated unfairly.” An individual feeling depressed may think, “I can’t get ahead.” Anxiety may be associated with a thought such as “Something bad is about to happen.” Patients may be encouraged to jot down thoughts as they come to mind in order to identify patterns.
- Determining core beliefs – Thoughts do not arise in a vacuum, but rather from belief systems that have been developed over a lifetime. These include both beliefs about self and about the world. Core beliefs about self are often associated with feelings of unworthiness, helplessness, or entitlement. Beliefs about the world include the ideas that people must be competent in all areas in order to be significant or that life’s challenges are too difficult to overcome and should be avoided instead.
- Associating actions with beliefs, thoughts, and emotions – In CBT, people are taught to examine their destructive behaviors for the thoughts, beliefs and emotions that are connected to them. Substance abuse is often an attempt to avoid feeling negative emotions. Sometimes it may be an angry act of rebellion.
- Examining the validity of thoughts and beliefs – Once beliefs have been identified, patients are taught to view them as hypotheses rather than facts. They are asked to run experiments to validate or repudiate them. They learn to ask themselves if there is another way to view the situation that would be more accurate or helpful.
By consistently practicing these skills, individuals can develop greater awareness of their thought processes and increased mastery over their emotions.
The Effectiveness of CBT
CBT has proven effective for a wide range of illnesses. NAMI notes that CBT has been shown to change the brain activity of people who undergo the treatment. Improved brain function is likely to lead to long-lasting benefits and improvement in functioning. NAMI states that CBT is as effective as antidepressant medicine for some people with depression and may be better at preventing relapse.
CBT is often used to address addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that CBT for addiction may include exploring the positive and negative consequences of substance use, identifying risky situations, and learning to recognize cravings early in the process. CBT treatment may be accessed not only through in-person counseling, but through computer programs as well. A 2008 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry reported on a study of patients receiving outpatient addiction treatment. Those who had bi-weekly access to computer-based CBT training had longer periods of abstinence than did those who did not utilize the program. NIDA notes that a computer-based CBT system has also been proven effective in reducing drug use after standard treatment has been completed.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to clonazepam or other substance and would like to learn more about addiction treatment, give us a call. Our helpline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day. Our consultants understand the issues involved and can help you find the treatment program that best meets your needs. They can even check your insurance coverage for you if you wish, at no cost or obligation. There is no need to walk this road alone. Why not call now?