Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Women’s Addiction Treatment

cognitive behavioral therapy There are a few different types of therapy that work well for the treatment of substance use disorder. One of the most effective forms of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Today, many women suffer from substance use disorder. With the help of CBT for substance abuse, they can overcome their addiction. However, this transformation does not happen overnight. Regular and consistent therapy sessions help patients stay on the right track to make a full recovery. CBT has several phases and offers many benefits to the patients.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT is a short-term treatment approach that aids in recognizing unhelpful or negative thoughts and behavior patterns. Cognitive behavioral therapists assist addicts with their recovery by helping the addict identify negative thoughts and address them with constructive behavior. These thoughts often arise from internalized feelings of fear and self-doubt. Many times people attempt to relieve such unpleasant thoughts and feelings by turning to their addiction.

When recovering addicts can talk about painful experiences in a safe environment, it can help them find ways to positively manage these emotions. Eventually, they are able to replace destructive habits with positive coping skills.

Cognitive behavioral therapy consists of two main components in its treatment of alcohol and substance abuse. These components are functional analysis and skills training.

Functional Analysis

This process in CBT involves identifying the causes and consequences of a particular behavior. In the functional analysis, the therapist and the addict identify the circumstances, feelings, and thoughts that resulted from substance abuse or drinking. This process assists in determining the risks that are likely to cause a relapse. The therapist asks the patient questions to understand the negative beliefs or thoughts and then looks for better ways of managing difficult situations, thoughts, or emotions.

Skills Training

Large unexpected life changes such as divorce, grief, or trauma can be extremely challenging to manage in a positive way. Some people turn to alcohol or substance abuse to cope. The goal of CBT is to identify the source of the problem and find ways to replace unproductive coping methods with healthier habits and skills. Once the trigger is identified, the trigger can be avoided or a more productive way of overcoming the trigger can be practiced. Of course, this doesn’t happen immediately. It takes practice to process the triggers in the moment and practice the skills of actively choosing a long-term positive solution instead of a quick fix.

Stages of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT for substance abuse involves four essential stages where the therapist works with the addict. The stages are as follows:

#1. Assessment stage

In this stage, the patient and therapist get to know each other. The therapist usually asks questions about past events that may have led to addiction. This gives the therapist insight to help you identify triggers in your life. Once the assessment is finished, the therapist creates a treatment plan with an estimated number of sessions needed.

#2. Cognitive stage

At this stage, you work together with your therapist to identify your negative thoughts and actions. You become aware of your emotions and thoughts that may have led to substance abuse. Once you’ve identified these triggers, your therapist may give you skills to work on when you experience these thoughts or emotions. Also, your therapist may take notes to document your progress.

#3. Behavior stage

In the behavior stage, your therapist helps you choose productive ways to work through negative thoughts and feelings. Next, you practice these new skills when you encounter a trigger. It usually takes a few tries before you’re able to slow down and interrupt strong negative emotions, but this practice is essential to the recovery process.

#4. Learning stage

In this stage, you work together with your therapist to prevent relapse and ensure the changes affected are permanent. You also learn how to apply CBT tools to future challenges. This helps you to cope with unexpected difficult situations you will face in the future.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT for substance abuse has a proven track record in treating women who have struggled with alcohol and substance addiction. Here are the most important benefits of CBT:

#1. A crucial network support

CBT provides the affected people with a support network of people who understand how to recover from substance addiction. Because CBT is focused more on the “how” to adopt positive habits, it provides actionable guidance. Positive encouragement from people who have seen a recovery in action gives you the hope that you can do it, too!

#2. Enhances self-esteem

Low esteem is one of the main factors for alcohol and drug addiction. CBT allows you to build their self-esteem. As you improve their self-image, you do not feel the need to engage in harmful behaviors to cope with negative self-talk. With continuous reinforcement, you are able to believe that they can conquer addiction and have a better life.

# 3. Development of positive thoughts

Women suffering from addiction usually also suffer from negative thinking patterns. Destructive thoughts usually reinforce feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people change negative thought patterns to positive and constructive thoughts.

#4. Better communication skills

Most people who suffer from addiction have a difficult time maintaining healthy relationships. CBT helps you to improve your communication skills to build or rebuild relationships with friends and family. You learn how to share their feelings with others without becoming overwhelmed with anger, shame, or other negative emotions.

#5. Relapse prevention

CBT provides you with tools and techniques to help avoid relapses. Because the therapy is focused on identifying negative thoughts and emotions that trigger the addiction, you can process what you are feeling. This pause allows you to make a more conscious choice in how to cope with strong thoughts and emotions.

Differences between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Both DBT and CBT are useful therapy strategies used to treat a variety of different mental disorders and addiction. The two approaches to therapy have similarities and some differences. Here are the main important differences:


The goals of CBT and DBT differ. Cognitive behavioral therapy is more goal-oriented than Dialectical behavior therapy. CBT aims to help you identify negative thinking or behaviors. It then provides you with tools to choose healthier coping mechanisms.

On the other hand, DBT has goals but they are not directly related to changing behavior. It aims to help you accept yourself, manage emotions, and regulate destructive behaviors. CBT focuses more on the actions of the affected person, while DBT focuses mainly on the social and emotional factors.


One of the critical differences between DBT and CBT is their approach to patients. DBT focuses on how the patient interacts with themselves and others. This therapy approach uses mindfulness practices to help patients to build a healthy self-esteem.

CBT is often more logic focused. It encourages patients to make use of critical thinking to promote positive behaviors.

Length of Treatment

Overall, CBT has a shorter treatment time frame than DBT. CBT course of treatment is usually five to 20 sessions while the DBT course of treatment can be longer.


Because of their different approaches to patients, these two therapy strategies have different strengths and weaknesses. Research shows that CBT is most effective in the treatment of substance abuse, generalized anxiety disorders, depression, phobia management, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, DBT has proven to be the most effective option for borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm.

How is CBT Helpful Specifically to Women?

Women often face many difficulties in life that can cause mental disorders, addiction, depression, and more. CBT is a safe way for women to engage with these challenges and seek treatment. Below are some of the issues facing women where CBT has proven to be an effective treatment:

  • Anger management
  • Sexual and relationship problems
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Female hormonal conditions as well as pregnancy-related distress

Getting the Most Out of CBT

cognitive behavioral therapy To get the most out of CBT, there are some steps you can take.

  • Approach your therapy session as a partnership: To get the most out of your therapy, be an active participant and contribute to the problem-solving process. Engage with your therapist on how to process your negative emotions and strong feelings. This will help you set goals together and evaluate your progress over time.
  • Be honest and open: For you to achieve success, you will need to be open and honest about your feelings, experiences, and thoughts. Letting your therapist know your reservations will be instrumental in offering an effective therapy plan.
  • Follow your treatment plan: Therapy can feel uncomfortable, challenging, and draining. It’s easy to come up with an excuse to skip sessions, but lack of consistency will significantly slow down your progress.
  • Do not expect instant results: Overcoming addiction can be a painful process that requires work and patience. After the first few sessions, you may not notice any improvement. Stick with it to see results.
  • Complete your assignments in between sessions: Therapists assign tasks such as reading or keeping a journal to patients in between the session to help with your recovery. Do the assignment carefully as they will help you in applying what you have learned in the sessions.
  • Talk to your therapist if the therapy is not working: If you do not see any improvement after completing a handful of sessions, let your therapist know. The therapist can make changes to the existing session plan, suggest a different approach, or even a different therapist.

New Directions Can Help

If you or someone you know struggles with alcohol or drug addiction, there is hope! Our caring team is ready to help you. We serve women of all ages from different backgrounds. Most importantly, we provide a safe setting to make all women feel welcome while receiving the support they need for recovery.

Want more information? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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