Is CBT a Normal Part of an Alcoholism Treatment Program?

If you’re struggling with an alcohol problem, you’re not alone; according to the National Institute of Health, more than 16 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder that significantly impacts their life. Of those with an alcohol problem, about 15 million are men and women age 18 or over. Alcohol use disorders also affect the lives of more 620,000 teenagers. Getting help for an alcohol problem is the single best thing that you can do to improve your health and overall wellbeing. After all, alcoholism has been linked to a myriad of accidents and severe health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver, blackouts, falls, traffic accidents, and alcohol poisoning.

Even more alarming, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to several forms of cancer, including oral, breast, and bowel cancer. While detox is a critical component when it comes to ending one’s relationship with alcohol, this aspect of addiction recovery only addresses physical addiction. Most addiction experts would agree that substance abuse counseling is a great way to tackle the psychological aspect of addiction. In this article, we will take a closer look a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and how this form of psychotherapy can help individuals achieve long-term sobriety.


For those who may not be familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it is a form of psychotherapy that is commonly used following detox in most drug and alcohol rehab facilities. It is also an effective treatment modality for those struggling with a co-occurring disorder or a stand-alone mental illness. Of course, this is not suggesting that other approaches to psychotherapy like dialectical behavior and interpersonal therapies, for example, are ineffective, but CBT has a better track record when it comes to relapse prevention.


To better understand why so many rehab facilities choose CBT over other forms of psychotherapy (talk therapy), it helps to know a little about how CBT works. The general premise behind CBT is that it attempts to address the underlying cause of addiction, such as a stressful work or home life. Beyond that, CBT can help individuals understand how negative experiences in their early life may have led to their present-day addiction to drugs or alcohol. Once an individual can identify these factors, they will be able to change their behavioral response when presented with them in the future. The same applies to cravings and temptations, which can both trigger a potential relapse. Considering that CBT was originally designed as a treatment to help individuals overcome alcoholism, it is not too surprising to find that it has become the psychotherapy treatment of choice for rehab facilities across the nation.


Now that we have a fundamental understanding of CBT, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect during a treatment session with a licensed therapist. Initially, therapists will work toward helping individuals recognize the impact that excessive drinking is having on their lives as well as the lives of their friends and family. Beyond that, the therapist will point out how alcoholism can impact their physical health. Once an individual has come to terms with the consequences of their actions, the therapist will instruct them on how to manage cravings.

From there, the therapist will help individuals choose healthy behaviors, as opposed to destructive ones, whenever they feel tempted to start drinking again. Generally speaking, most CBT programs are comprised of 12 to 16 sessions and are designed to prepare individuals for life after rehab. According to several studies, those who have undergone CBT have a better chance of achieving long-term recovery than those who overcome addiction with detox only. That said, CBT can help individuals implement the following positive behavioral changes:

  • Learning to recognize high-risk situations and avoiding them
  • Recognizing triggers that can lead to a resumption of old behaviors
  • Engaging in activities that distract them for drinking

Depending the severity of an individual’s drinking problem, therapists will take 1 of 3 approaches when it comes to administering CBT treatments:

Classical conditioning – This form of CBT entails teaching individuals how to avoid triggers that lead to alcohol consumption.

Operant conditioning – This form of CBT entails teaching individuals how to develop constructive ways of dealing with their desire to start drinking again.

Modeling – This form of CBT entails following the steps of others who have successfully overcome their addiction to alcohol.

All in all, CBT is not only a normal part of treating alcoholism but also the most effective. To learn more about how CBT can help you end your relationship with alcohol, consider scheduling a consultation with one of our caring and knowledgeable associates today at 833-762-3739.