Relapse Prevention With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Sep 5, 2023 | Uncategorized

“Recovery from addiction is a challenging journey, filled with both triumphs and setbacks,” clinical psychologist Rubin Khoddam, Ph.D., recently wrote on Psychology Today. “For individuals seeking long-term sobriety, relapse can be a disheartening reality. However, recent findings have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a powerful tool for preventing relapse and sustaining recovery.”

Since its emergence in the 1960s, CBT has remained one of the mainstays of psychotherapeutic intervention for different mental health conditions, including substance use disorder (SUD). “It is one of the most evidenced-based psychotherapeutic interventions,” wrote Halder and Mahato in their 2019 study on cognitive behavior therapy for children and adolescents. “CBT is used for clients from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, and ages. Apart from hospitals and clinics, it is also used in schools, vocational programs, and rehabilitation centers, among other settings. It has been found beneficial in generalized anxiety, stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, depression, and behavioral problems.” 

Dr. Khoddam emphasizes trauma’s significant role in addiction: “Traumatic experiences can drive individuals to use substances to cope with the emotional pain and distress caused by the trauma. This connection between trauma and addiction makes it crucial to address both issues simultaneously. By addressing the trauma at its root, individuals are better equipped to prevent relapse and achieve lasting recovery.”

Unresolved and unprocessed trauma, including adverse childhood experiences, is a major driver behind relapses. Especially in early recovery, trauma-related triggers and emotions can quickly drive individuals to revert to their previous coping mechanisms and revert to substance misuse with devastating consequences. 

CBT helps people with SUDs counteract such triggers by identifying troubling situations and becoming aware of their thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about these situations. CBT helps identify negative or inaccurate thinking and recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that may be contributing to a person’s problem.

“Many people with addiction or mental health issues lack effective coping strategies to deal with life’s challenges,” wrote Dr. Khoddam. “Without healthy coping mechanisms, individuals may resort to familiar, albeit harmful, behaviors as a way to manage stress and discomfort.”

CBT can provide such a healthy coping mechanism and thus prevent a relapse by:

  • Identifying triggers: CBT helps individuals recognize the thoughts, feelings, and situations that trigger their cravings for substances. By understanding these triggers, they can develop strategies to avoid or cope with them.
  • Building coping skills: CBT equips individuals with practical skills to manage stress, anxiety, and negative emotions without resorting to substance use. These skills are essential for maintaining sobriety.
  • Challenging negative beliefs: Many individuals struggling with addiction have negative beliefs about themselves and their ability to change. CBT helps challenge and reframe these beliefs, fostering self-empowerment.

Teenagers are notoriously prone to negative thinking. The insecurities adolescents feel as they undergo the transitions necessary in growing up make them especially vulnerable to believing the worst. This tendency can lead to chronic anxiety, depression, and substance misuse, and thus interfere with relationships and success at school. CBT can provide teens with skills to manage stress, regulate emotions, problem-solve, and challenge unhelpful beliefs.

“Addiction and relapse are formidable foes, but with the right tools and support, lasting recovery is within reach,” explained Dr. Khoddam. “Cognitive behavioral therapy, especially when integrated with trauma-informed care, has proven to be a beacon of hope for individuals battling addiction.”

Providing young people and their families with the tools they need to thrive is a core aspect of the Avanti Behavioral Health mission. Our treatment program has been created with a focus on individualized care for each client. Each participant in the program receives a completely customized treatment process and each phase of the process is assessment-driven. Our overall mission is to provide comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for teens. 

We believe that recovery from a substance use disorder is a process that should involve the entire immediate family. We have developed an effective and highly involved method of family counseling. For more information about our IOP and family programming call us at (720) 753-4030. 

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