A wide variety of therapy types fall under the general umbrella of behavioral therapy (BT), and many of these approaches are evidence-based and highly effective for treating addiction.
People who undergo behavioral therapy are more aware of their negative thoughts and actions, which helps them as they go about their lives daily. Aside from helping to identify and change self-harmful behaviors, it can also give them tools to think or act differently. It can also provide tools for finding healthier and more positive ways to react or think about challenges.
People with mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, or eating disorders may benefit from this treatment. People with addiction may also have co-occurring disorders, such as depression.
BT’s main goal is to increase engagement in the positives instead of focusing on the negatives. More than 75 percent of people who receive behavioral therapies have success with it. Behavioral therapies have many benefits, including motivation, strategic planning, preventing relapse, and being effective in addiction treatment. Learn more about behavioral therapy and how it benefits addiction patients.
What Is Behavioral Therapy?
The term behavioral therapy refers to different treatments that deal with mental disorders, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses. This treatment is evidence-based rather than alternative.
Behavioral therapy comes in different forms, including the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral and psychological health issues can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy. Depression, anxiety, marriage problems, eating disorders, substance use disorders (SUDs), and even severe mental health conditions can be treated by doctors and therapists using CBT.
In addition to improving quality of life, CBT can also improve social and occupational functioning, which is an evidence-based treatment option. Among the first-line psychotherapies for many mental health issues, CBT has been shown to be more effective than other options when treating mental health issues.
In the United States and all around the world, CBT is one of the most commonly used psychotherapies because it’s an evidence-based practice that can be used in many clinical settings. Originally used to treat substance use disorders, it has now been adapted to treat mental health and substance use problems as well.
Behavioral therapy uses cognitive principles to address the way your thoughts influence your behavior. The three central principles of cognitive behavioral therapy are:
- Unhelpful thinking contributes to psychological problems.
- Unhelpful behavioral patterns contribute to psychological problems.
- Better coping mechanisms can relieve psychological symptoms and increase social and occupational functioning for people with psychological problems.
It is common for CBT to focus on identifying triggers, such as going to parties in a bar if you have a substance use disorder. However, triggers can come from more inconspicuous situations. In fact, triggers can even be inborn, coming from your thoughts and emotions. For example, after a long day at work, an empty house can trigger negative emotions that lead to cravings as a coping mechanism.
As you become more aware of emotional triggers, you will be able to identify thinking that leads to non-helpful behavior. You will also be able to understand your behavior and the motivations behind it and others’ behavior, too.
CBT can be used to increase self-efficacy, which is a belief that you can handle challenges that come your way. Through CBT, you can learn effective ways of responding to negative emotions and situations of high risk.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy is a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy. It is also often considered a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. DBT, initially designed for borderline personality disorder, has been adapted to treat anxiety and depression, among other mental and behavioral health problems.
As part of DBT, you will learn to accept your current situation and live in the moment. Other DBT factors will include dealing with stress, regulating your emotions, and strengthening your relationships with others.
As a result of its effectiveness in treating people who struggle with controlling their emotions, borderline personality disorder, a psychological disorder characterized by emotional instability and self-destructive behavior, has been included in its original uses.
In addition, DBT is often used to treat other mental health disorders that involve emotional regulation issues, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also be used to treat self-destructive disorders, such as eating disorders.
DBT also teaches mindfulness, a meditative practice in which you learn to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and impulses. By using DBT techniques, you can slow down during times of emotional distress and learn better emotional regulation techniques, which keep you grounded in the present moment and prevent anxiety about the future.
Addiction is often thought of as a family disease because it affects everyone in the family and can be rooted in family dysfunction.
It is designed to improve communication and relationships within the family environment and resolve conflicts. The person with addiction benefits as well as the family members because it strengthens bonds and helps to identify and work to end enabling behaviors. It is essential to addiction therapy because it benefits not just the addict but also the whole family.
Motivational Interviewing (MI)
There is no doubt that not everyone is ready to change their behavior to stop their addiction. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a form of behavior therapy that can be effective in helping someone change substance abuse behavior into substance-free behavior. This therapy follows a trans-theoretical approach. In this therapy, individuals learn how to achieve long-term recovery by following all five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
Contingency Management (CM)
According to the contingency management (CM) method, reinforced or rewarded behavior will likely continue. This type of behavior therapy is used to reinforce abstinence from the substance of abuse when it is used for drug or alcohol addiction.
As part of addiction therapy, one way to benefit is abstaining from substance abuse, producing a clean urine sample on demand, and receiving a reward, such as a gift card. Recovery rewards are better the longer someone produces positive outcomes (urination free of substance, regular attendance at therapy sessions or 12-step meetings, for example).
As part of conditional management, rewards can also be withheld if the person fails to change their behavior or does not follow specific guidelines.
The Benefits of Behavior Therapy for Addiction Treatment
In addition to motivating individuals to enter drug treatment, behavioral therapies offer strategies to cope with cravings for drugs, teach ways to stay away from drugs and prevent relapse and help individuals cope with relapse once it happens.
People with addiction can receive guidance to move from substance-seeking behaviors and thoughts into healthier, positive behaviors and outcomes through various types of behavior therapy. A person with a substance use disorder can benefit from different kinds of behavior therapy combined with addiction treatment.
Is CBT or DBT for Best Your Needs?
You should talk to a doctor or psychologist if you need treatment for mental or behavioral health problems, such as alcoholism or depression. In order to receive the treatment you need, you need to get an accurate diagnosis. A therapist will create a personalized treatment plan with specific objectives and goals if you enter an addiction treatment program.
In addiction treatment, you will likely undergo a biopsychosocial assessment, which examines your biological, psychological, and social needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular therapy in addiction treatment. Additionally, it can be used to treat many of the underlying issues that are often associated with substance use disorders, as well as treat substance use disorders.
Because cognitive behavioral therapy is so common, it is likely you will experience it at some point during your treatment, or your therapist will incorporate some of its principles into your treatment plan. Additionally, CBT contributes to the development of a relapse prevention model, which helps you avoid relapses during treatment and afterward. It also increases your self-efficacy, which is essential for mental health.
A certain type of emotional instability may be treated with DBT. It involves exercises that help you gain control over your emotions and accept situations that you cannot control. Anxiety disorders characterized by catastrophizing, or assuming that small problems will result in the worst possible outcomes, may benefit from it especially.
There is no need to choose between one or the other. At the end of the day, no two treatment plans are the same. Your therapist can create a treatment plan that includes elements from both types. A therapy’s effectiveness will be determined by your substance use disorder and other requirements you have.