using behavioral therapy to treat addiction

At the end of last century, professionals in the substance abuse and addiction space made huge leaps in applying behavioral therapy to rehab and recovery models, and those successes have led to continued development of models today. Various forms of behavioral therapy have become tied irrevocably to treatment methods in most facilities, but many people struggling with addiction consider these methods to be simple “talk therapy” and don’t understand how it can work. Here’s a look at the role of behavioral therapy in addiction treatment and why it’s a proven best practice.

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a term that covers a variety of methods that are used when treating both chemical dependency disorders and mental health disorders. The goal tends to be to help someone understand their disorder and how it impacts their life, identify self-destructive behaviors and triggers, and develop healthier behaviors and coping mechanisms that can take the place of self-destructive behavior or the use of alcohol or drugs.

Behavioral therapies are commonly used in inpatient, outpatient, group counseling and individual counseling sessions to treat a range of issues, including depression, panic disorders, anxiety and mood disorders. They are also employed in treatments addressing addictions, phobias, substance abuse, PTSD and eating disorders.

Common Types of Behavioral Therapy

Professionals may employ different types of behavioral therapy depending on the individual they are working with, the situation and the issue they are treating. Some of the most common forms include cognitive behavioral therapy, system desensitization, and aversion therapy.

System desensitization is more often applied in cases where individuals are facing phobias; therapists teach the person relaxation techniques and then work with them to apply those techniques in situations where they are exposed to their fear. In some cases, therapists may use some of these concepts when working with individuals who are struggling with substance abuse, because learning to use relaxation techniques in the face of triggers and stressors can be a healthy coping mechanism.

Aversion therapy occurs when a therapist teaches you to associate something with an unpleasant memory or outcome. The goal is to create a natural aversion for that substance or activity. While this type of therapy could be applied in addiction treatment, it is not the top choice for many providers.

Cognitive behavioral therapy — treatment that involves problem-solving, long-term changes in behavior and an understanding of how your beliefs and internal thoughts impact your mood or action — is one of the most popular forms of behavioral therapy for dealing with addiction and substance abuse.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works to Treat Addiction

The National Institutes of Health notes that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment method, both on its own and in conjunction with other treatment methods. One of the reasons CBT is so effective in treating addiction is that it helps the person suffering from addiction take some control over the cycle, first with the constant help of inpatient rehab staff, then with the regular support of outpatient staff or group therapy.

Specifically, CBT works to help individuals anticipate problems they might encounter remaining sober as they return to regular life and develop effective and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with those problems. To do this, CBT must:

  • Help the individual move past thinking about addiction or substance abuse as a singular behavior or “bad habit” they can quit based on willpower alone
  • Assist the individual in discovering his or her root causes and triggers — what led to the substance abuse and addiction in the first place
  • Lead the person in developing more appropriate responses to triggers, cravings and other issues that might push them back into the addiction cycle

Some things therapists may do as part of CBT include:

  • Exploring the outcomes — both positive and negative — of continued drug use through group and individual discussions and weighing those outcomes
  • Working on self-monitoring skills so individuals become more adept at understanding their minds and bodies and identifying early warning signs of cravings
  • Discussing how to identify and deal with risk situations that make substance abuse more likely

Part of a Comprehensive Approach to Addiction Treatment

Most facilities, including Beachway, include behavioral therapy in a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment. Our holistic approach may also include assisted detox, during which doctors and nurses help you deal with the immediate physical withdrawal symptoms of quitting drugs or alcohol, and recreational therapy.

All of these options are offered in a comfortable, resort-like atmosphere. For more information about how Beachway can help you face and overcome the cycle of addiction, complete our online contact form or call 877-284-0353 to speak with one of our compassionate staff right now.