Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: An Alternative Method for Alcohol Recovery

Many men and women have realized that their excessive use of alcohol is unhealthy. They finally are ready to do something about it. However, treatment centers that emphasize 12-step programs may make them uncomfortable. They dislike the concept of being powerless when dealing with addiction, and they do not view their substance use as an incurable disease. A rehab center that tackles alcohol abuse with cognitive behavioural therapy, commonly called CBT, may be more appealing.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

This type of treatment involves identifying self-destructive patterns, and the thoughts and emotions that lead to negative behaviour of all sorts. The client learns his or her underlying irrational thoughts that cause uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, depression, fear and hopelessness. Now, when those feelings are experienced, the person can track the thoughts backward and discover the triggers.

Destructive habits are broken by emphasizing positive activities in one’s schedule. They also are eliminated by changing the person’s perceptions and interpretations of daily events. A third strategy involves focusing on healthy behaviours. For instance, an individual who drinks late into the night several times a week can change the sleep schedule to an earlier hour. Now, the time that previously was spent drinking alcohol will be spent sleeping. This has the added advantage of allowing the person to wake up early and feel refreshed instead of hung over.

The therapist and client work together to develop personalized motivational strategies. This inspires the client to continue the new activities. The first moments of craving alcohol are recognizable now, and effective methods are used to successfully manage the temptation.

Alcohol Abuse in the CBT Viewpoint

Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on taking responsibility for one’s actions and for learning beneficial new patterns. Substance abuse is not viewed as a disease, but as a learned habit that developed because of its initial positive rewards. Now, the negative effects may be interfering with the drinker’s health, work and relationships.

Perhaps the person liked the calmness felt while drinking after a stressful day at work. Maybe drinking helped the person loosen up and feel less shy when out with a group. Some individuals start drinking every day to ease emotional pain over a divorce or a death in the family. No matter what the reason, for some men and women, alcohol use eventually spirals out of control.

Unlike some alcohol treatment strategies, CBT does not require anyone to accept the label of “alcoholic” or being powerlessness over alcohol. In contrast, clients are encouraged to become empowered and no longer compelled to drink. There is no requirement to acknowledge the help of a higher power, although that is certainly acceptable.

Taking the First Step

A person who has realized he or she needs help can start with some online research on alcohol treatment centers to learn which ones offer CBT. This individual will likely have a preference for a residential or outpatient program. CBT can be continued as long as needed after a residential program ends. Taking action toward resolving the substance abuse problem is a big step toward a more positive future.