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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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Addiction is trickier than you think. 22.6 million Americans use illicit drugs. 16.9 million drink heavy amounts of alcohol, yet only 2.6 million people get treatment.
Stigmatization is a major factor. People malign others who struggle with addiction, so they feel too insecure to get help.

But ignorance is another factor. Many people don’t know the plethora of therapies that can get people off of addiction. One such therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy.

Learn about it and you can get help right away. Here is your quick guide to CBT and addiction.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy. It is based on the principles of behaviorism and cognition.

Behaviorism theorizes that people perform behaviors through conditioning. People consume addictive substances as an adaptive technique to something in their environment. They may consume drugs to cope with physical pain, so therapists must provide pain relief techniques.
Cognition is the mental process people use to gain knowledge. Thoughts, feelings, and sensory processing are components of cognition.
CBT attempts to modify people’s behaviors. Doctors work with their patients on ways they can adapt to the world around them.
At the same time, doctors respect the minds of their patients. They do not force coping strategies on them. They hear their thoughts and feelings, then work with the patients to connect their thoughts to their actions.
CBT helps with any kind of addiction. It is effective for patients with comorbidity, who have a mental illness and an addiction at the same time.
Peter Piraino
“CBT helps our clients define what is a real problem and what is a false story they have made up to justify their actions or behaviors.”
Peter Piraino, LMSW, LCDC, CEO

What Happens During CBT?

CBT is primarily talk sessions between doctor and patient. It is confidential, so patients do not have to worry about what others would think of them.
The sessions are designed to target automatic thoughts. These are thoughts based on impulse, doubt, and fear. Doctors address these thoughts because they lead many patients to use drugs.
Patients revisit their painful memories. But doctors don’t just ask them what happened. Doctors ask them how they cope, then help them come up with coping strategies that don’t use drugs.
CBT may be initially uncomfortable. But patients learn new behaviors that replace their drug use. They confront what has led to their addictions and come free from those triggers.

CBT works in conjunction with other therapies. If the patient likes to talk, they can go to group therapy. A patient can take CBT in an inpatient setting, or they can remain at home.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that uses a systematic and goal-oriented approach to address dysfunctional behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Inpatient CBT treatment is one of the most common and effective types of psychotherapy used in treating mental illnesses and personality disorders, including substance abuse problems, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and mood disorders. CBT has been favored in psychotherapy partly because of the trend in health care toward evidence-based treatment, in which specific treatments are recommended based on symptomatic diagnoses.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy attempts to change maladaptive thinking to bring about alterations in effect and behavior. This is done by challenging the patient’s way of thinking as well as his or her reaction to a variety of behaviors and habits.

Cognitive behavioral Therapy Has Six Distinct Phases

  • Assessment
  • Reconceptualization
  • Skills acquisition
  • Skills consolidation and application training
  • Generalization and maintenance
  • Post-treatment assessment and follow-up


Anxiety disorders are particularly susceptible to this form of treatment. A form of CBT called in vivo exposure, in which the patient is gradually exposed to a feared stimulus, is often used when treating phobias.

The treatment stems from the theory of classical conditioning, where the assumption is made that the fear-causing stimulus is negatively reinforced by avoidance and therefore is maintained instead of diminished. CBT is also very effective against clinical depression, where it is used to allow the patient to overcome harmful thought processes and recurring images in order to lessen the effects of depressive episodes and even to lower the chances of a patient relapsing.

Go to the Experts on CBT and Addiction

CBT is just one strategy that a person can use to combat their addiction. Yet it is incredibly useful.
CBT combines behaviorism and cognitive strategies. A doctor examines the behaviors of their patients. Then they propose coping mechanisms that associate with how their patient thinks and feels.
A patient talks to their doctors about troublesome memories. As the patient revisits their past, they learn ways of coping with it. Patients can combine CBT with other therapies.
Find the experts on CBT and addiction. The Burning Tree Ranch is Dallas’s leading addiction treatment clinic. Contact us today.

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LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

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Beth Legacki, Burning Tree Ranch Alumni