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woman talking to therapistMany reputable substance abuse treatment programs offer numerous therapy options, and with good reason.

Using Therapy to Get to the Root Cause of Addiction

For effective healing and sobriety, it’s imperative to get to the root cause of self-destructive behavior and change actions and reactions to lessen suffering.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a top choice for treatment facilities because extensive research indicates it prompts “significant improvement in functioning and quality of life,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA). In fact, because of bountiful scientific evidence, CBT is often the preferred foundation of therapeutic treatment.

About CBT

The APA stresses that the point of CBT is to “actually produce change.” To do this, a therapist and an individual must understand the core principles of this method as they relate to psychological problems. These are:

  • Accepting that problems often have a catalyst of faulty or unhelpful forms of thinking
  • Recognizing these issues are, in part, due to learned patterns of behavior that aren’t helpful
  • Helping individuals struggling with psychological issues develop better ways of coping with them, which relieves various symptoms and enables them to become more capable in their lives

Through CBT, a person develops the ability to change perceptions and thoughts so he or she has the power to affect behavior. The APA lists numerous strategies to accomplish this, including the following, verbatim:

  • Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality
  • Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others
  • Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations
  • Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence is one’s own abilities
  • Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them
  • Using role playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others
  • Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body

While not all of these techniques are used by the psychologist and the individual, their collaboration on what does work is essential. Understanding previous traumas, pursuing whole person wellness, and continually modifying the CBT approach through both triumphs and setbacks are all vital to progressive and successful treatment.

CBT is often the foundation of addiction treatment because it allows a person to identify and control the reasons why he or she might choose substances instead of other coping mechanisms. CBT applications also help someone monitor triggers or cravings and employ strategies early on to avoid relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates once someone learns and adopts CBT methods, he or she will likely continue to use them after treatment.

CBT: What to Expect

While it’s true that talk therapy isn’t initially for everyone, the control a person gains after learning specific CBT skills often leads to a greater sense of trust. This, in turn, makes it easier for some people to express their emotions to specific individuals or in certain situations and believe they’re truly being heard. It’s up to the therapist to understand what stages someone may have to go through in order to speak up about thoughts or feelings and learn helpful methods for addressing concerns, trauma, triggers, or behavioral changes.

But, unlike other aspects of talk therapy, CBT often has a structure. An individual and a therapist make session plans based on symptoms or specific problems, and then set goals for resolution. For example, if someone is having trouble sleeping, the sessions may center on the various causes for this. The process might be as follows:

  1. The individual explores potential reasons through homework assignments.
  2. The homework assignments are examined at the next session as the individual and therapist discuss aspects of how to deal with the problem.
  3. A follow-up homework assignment allows the person to put these methods into action.
  4. A follow-up session looks at what approaches worked best.

This is a simple example, but it demonstrates how the point of CBT is to help someone see the cause and effect of a feeling or situation, and use specific tools to break his or her usual or default pattern of response to improve independent efficacy in dealing with the issue. Efficacy is defined as “the power to produce a desired or intended result.”

This step-by-step therapeutic approach is what helps an individual learn more effective coping skills, such as writing down thoughts when they feel anxious or depressed before a wave of emotion is too much to handle. Or, if someone has a problem assuming the worst of all people because of the past actions of a select few, he or she will learn how to stop presumptive thinking and communicate more clearly.

Changes in thinking help prompt changes in behavior.

If a person who is anxious or depressed recognizes how other people feel similar, he or she might be more open to learning new, healthy techniques for handling different episodes—instead of relying on self-destructive behaviors because of feeling flawed, broken, or insignificant.

CBT is highly effective one-on-one, but it’s also proven to be helpful in group sessions, especially in addiction treatment centers, to help people move beyond feelings of isolation and reproach. Group therapy can encourage stronger relatability between people, create a sense of community, and foster better understanding of issues and potential solutions.

The Therapeutic Approach at Twin Lakes Recovery Center

Our caring experts are focused on helping you or a loved one understand how to not only live without substances, but also have the necessary tools to navigate a healthy life with purpose. For some people, the chance to reveal their best selves is the primary reason why they embrace what’s learned through various therapies.

Our inpatient treatment program includes cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapy components of dialectical behavior therapy, and 12-Step processes.

To learn more about our detox and treatment programs at Twin Lakes, Georgia addiction treatment centers, please use the convenient contact form.


  • psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-well/201304/four-common-myths-and-misconceptions-about-cbt
  • psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201011/does-talk-therapy-really-work