Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Treating Addiction

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy during which any unhelpful patterns of thought about yourself or the world can be identified and challenged, in order to bring about positive change in your life.

CBT centres around the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with what may seem like overwhelming problems in a positive way.

Through CBT you will be empowered to change negative patterns in your life and improve the way you feel. CBT very much focuses on the current issues you may have, rather than focusing on the problems of your past. Focusing on one day at a time, CBT is about bringing about positive change in the present.

You and your counsellor will work together to uncover and explore the way your thinking and behaviour is impacting your life and will work out a programme of change that you can practice between sessions. The goal of CBT is to help you to develop new, positive skills and apply them in your daily life. These skills are meant to last a lifetime, not just for the duration of the sessions.

CBT has been shown to be an effective way of treating a number of different mental health conditions.

In addition to depression or anxiety disorders, CBT can also help people with:

  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Problems with sleep – insomnia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Addictions – both substance and process
  • Eating disorders

How is CBT Useful?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be as effective as medication in treating some mental health problems[i], and it can certainly be useful for a wide range of people with a wide range of different issues.

CBT can be useful:

  • Where medication hasn’t been effective
  • When time or funds mean you would rather complete therapy in a relatively short period of time
  • In all sorts of settings, in individual counselling, in groups, and even alone through, self-help books and online programmes
  • For developing skills that will last a lifetime.

Embarking on a journey with CBT requires commitment from you. It is a proactive type of therapy, the counsellor can certainly help you but you will need to invest in your process too. CBT is very much about focusing on what it is in yourself that you can change, rather than looking at your external factors that may be causing difficulties in your life.

Some critics argue that CBT has only limited usefulness because of its focus on current problems specific issues, means that it doesn’t address the possible underlying causes of persistent patterns, such as trauma in childhood.

CBT is a really popular therapy and The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), has advised that CBT should be the first line treatment for mild to moderate depression, followed by drugs only if CBT proves unsuccessful.


Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has been shown to work really well for those suffering from addiction issues. Cognitive-behavioural strategies are based on the theory that in the development of unhelpful patterns of behaviour, such as addiction, learning processes play an important role.

Through CBT for addiction, you will learn to identify and then replace the thinking and behaviour that is getting in the way of your recovery. CBT will help enhance your awareness of relapse triggers and enable you to increase self-control and other helpful coping strategies.

CBT works well in conjunction with other approaches. Those having CBT in a rehab setting can certainly benefit from continuing with CBT when they leave in a traditional therapy setting or even online. A computer-based CBT system has also been developed and has been shown to be effective in helping reduce drug use following standard drug abuse treatment.[ii]

Eating Disorders

It is estimated that around one million people in Britain suffer from an eating disorder. Through CBT you will focus on your eating disordered behaviour but can also look at other things which often occur alongside eating disorders, such as low self-esteem and perfectionism.

Through CBT you will get a better grasp of how emotions impact on behaviour and learn helpful ways of coping with emotions and thoughts without resorting to eating disordered behaviour. It can also focus on building up your capacity for feeling joy, serenity, and a general sense of wellbeing.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Beat, the eating disorders charity said this about Eating Disorder specific CBT: “People can benefit from psychological therapy even at a very low weight.”

Depression and Other Mental Disorders

Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used in the treatment of depression and other mental health disorders. It can be particularly effective if your depression is mild or moderate. In some cases, you may combine CBT with other treatments or antidepressants.

You can access CBT sessions in a one-on-one setting, in group therapy, with self-help materials under your counselor’s guidance, or even on the computer.

During CBT you will come to a sense of what your therapeutic goals are –  it might be something like to feel less depressed or to cut back on unhealthy eating. Rather than focusing on your past, you will work with your counsellor to deal with what it is you think and feel in the here and now and what you can do to make the present better.

Through your counselling process, your therapist will help you develop skills that will help prevent poor mental health from coming back.

Is it Effective?

Cognitive behavioural therapy will help you to make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.

CBT differs from many other types of therapy because it’s:

  • pragmatic – it helps identify specific issues and finds solutions for them
  • highly structured – you and your therapist will discuss specific problems and set goals for you go through the process you will focus on think and act now rather than attempting to resolve past issues
  • collaborative – your therapist won’t tell you what to do, together you will explore ways to find the best solutions for you

In CBT, problems are broken down into five main areas:

  • situations
  • thoughts
  • emotions
  • physical feelings
  • actions

Through CBT you will look at how there these five areas are interconnected and can impact each other.

How Long Does it Take to Work?

CBT aims to get you to a point where you can tackle problems without the help of a therapist relatively quickly.

After the initial assessment period, you’ll start working with your therapist to break down problems into their separate parts. Together with your counsellor, you will look at your thoughts to see if they are unhelpful or unrealistic and then work out ways to change such thoughts.

At each session, you’ll discuss with your therapist how you’ve got on with putting the changes into practice and what it felt like. Your therapist will be able to make other suggestions to help you.

If you have CBT on an individual basis, you’ll usually meet with a CBT counsellor for between five and 20 weekly or fortnightly sessions, with each session lasting around an hour. Every person is different and will, therefore, require a different length of treatment. While CBT does aim to be a fast working type of talking therapy it does require a high level of commitment to work. CBT can help you to find a more helpful way of responding to situations in your life.

If you or your loved one are suffering from addiction don’t delay. To learn more about what treatment will best meet your needs call us today.

close help
Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0808 163 9632
CQC Report
Corona Virus SymbolUKAT Group centres will continue to follow health and safety precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering our clinics.