CBT For Addiction and Eating Disorders

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely-studied therapeutic modalities in the world, with its core tenants having been adapted to treat several well-known conditions. Many studies have shown CBT to be as effective (or more effective) than other forms of therapy or psychiatric medications – and CBT has also been demonstrated to help those struggling with addiction and eating disorder issues as well. [1]

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    Uses for CBT

    On the whole, CBT is a useful tool that can assist you to:[2]

    Manage the symptoms of mental health conditions

    Learn new coping strategies for your stressors

    Better cope with grief and loss

    Manage chronic symptoms

    CBT for Substance Abuse

    CBT for Substance Abuse

    Adapting CBT for addictions, substance use disorders, and eating disorders produces positive outcomes in treatment, both on its own and in combination with other techniques, in both individual and group settings.[3]

    Such interventions have shown particular strength in treating substance abuse, with CBT approaches having among the highest levels of empirical support for the treatment of drug and alcohol use disorders.[4]

    Mental Disorder

    CBT for Behavioral Addiction

    In addition to treating substance use disorders CBT has also been demonstrated as effective in the treatment of other kinds of behavioral and process-based addictions, such as gambling.[5] The hallmarks of CBT—identifying cognitive distortions, contingency planning, and developing new coping strategies—-are highly adaptable to the challenges of all addiction struggles, and have been widely adapted across several levels of treatment.

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    CBT for Eating Disorders

    CBT also has strong clinical support for the treatment of eating disorders. In many cases, CBT principles are the modality of choice for bulimia nervosa, with strong evidence that it’s also effective for use with several other eating disorder presentations as well.[6] Since many of the challenges of eating disorders are cognitive in nature CBT finds a natural lens with which to be applied to untangle cognitive distortions and assist those who are struggling.

    How (and Why) CBT Works

    CBT for addiction of any kind seeks to change the way people think about and interpret the events of their lives, which in turn affects the way they think and the way they feel. Often far shorter in scope than other traditional talk–based therapies, CBT chooses to focus on present-moment thoughts and actions rather than the past. It emphasizes the need to identify, challenge, and change the outlook you have towards your situation.[7]

    We all experience distortions of our thoughts and feelings from time to time, and CBT aims to assist us in removing the generalizations and heightening our awareness of such unhelpful thoughts to replace them with more-functional ones for a better outlook and menu of options.

    How (and Why) Drug Detoxification Works

    CBT Process

    CBT for addictions and eating disorders can occur at every level of the treatment spectrum (individual work, group therapy, inpatient settings, outpatient settings). Although approaches can vary, depending on the issue in question and venue for treatment, most CBT approaches will adhere to a structured delivery that includes:

    • An initial assessment of the presenting problem(s) and identifying goals for treatment.
    • Psychoeducation around CBT principles and the challenges of the issue at hand.
    • Identifying automatic and negative thought patterns that arise in difficult situations and how these impact feelings and behaviors.
    • Challenging these thoughts and seeking evidence for more realistic, better outcomes.
    • Developing and practicing new coping strategies to produce more productive thought patterns, leading to more productive behaviors.
    • Monitoring progress and working on relapse prevention strategies.
    Side Effects of Medical Detox

    What’s the Best Way to Find CBT?

    CBT has been broadly studied to be helpful for a wide array of conditions and concerns, and as such there are many practitioners and clinics who can provide this assistance. It’s important to consider your holistic treatment needs when considering any provider for services, as CBT will often be part of an overall treatment plan designed to assist you in overcoming the challenges of substance use, alcohol use, behavioral-based addictions, or eating disorders.

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    Cost of CBT

    The cost of CBT can vary depending on how it is utilized and in what environment. Solo CBT practitioners will have the intervention included in their overall billing, and most treatment organizations will also include CBT as a modality within their offerings. It’s always recommended to ask any billing-related questions you may have before beginning treatment so that you can feel empowered

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

    Many specific and adaptive techniques can be incorporated into CBT-based treatments, lending to its versatility and adaptability. Such techniques are intended to promote greater self-awareness, challenge irrational thought patterns and beliefs, and develop new and robust coping strategies for stressors and triggers. These include:

    Treatments and Therapies Related to Medically Supervised Detox

    Cognitive Restructuring: Identifying negative or irrational thought patterns, known as cognitive distortions, and replacing them with more balanced and realistic thoughts. Clients learn to challenge their automatic negative thoughts and reframe them in a more rational and positive way.

    Thought Journaling: Clients keep a thought record to track their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This tool helps them to recognize patterns and triggers, and the clinician can use it to provide feedback and help challenge negative thinking patterns.

    Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing, help clients become more aware of their thoughts and emotions in the present moment. These techniques can reduce stress and improve overall emotional regulation.

    Problem-Solving Skills: Clients learn systematic problem-solving strategies to approach challenges and obstacles in a constructive way.

    Cognitive Distancing: Helping clients view their thoughts as separate from themselves, reducing the felt emotional intensity associated with negative thoughts.

    Self-Monitoring: Clients track their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors throughout the day to gain insight into their cognitive patterns and emotional responses, often used in tandem with thought journaling.

    Social Skills Training: Clients learn and practice effective communication and social skills to improve their interpersonal relationships.

    De-catastrophizing: Analyzing and challenging catastrophic thoughts to replace them with more-realistic, grounded perspectives.

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    Frequently Asked Questions about CBT

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    Does CBT work for alcohol abuse? Chevron Down
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