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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dual Diagnosis Treatment


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy used to help individuals address a range of dual diagnosis mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicidal ideations, and substance abuse disorders. This specific type of therapy has been used in conjunction with traditional treatment methods in order to help an individual identify and change behaviors and perceptions relating to substance abuse. 

Up to half of the individuals who suffer from a substance use disorder also suffer from a mental illness. As a result, treating both disorders simultaneously is extremely important. A good addiction treatment center uses behavioral therapies, like CBT, to diagnose, address, and treat individuals with co-occurring disorders.

What Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat?

According to the Beck Institute, the goal of CBT is to help individuals identify, accept, and change dysfunctional behaviors related to their personal issues of substance abuse disorder. This specific type of treatment is highly beneficial for individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders by helping them identify triggers for addiction, mitigate cravings, and become aware of high-risk situations. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps the individual focus on present problems over past obstacles. Shifting the perception, clients learn to relax, apply social and communication techniques, and actively participate in therapy. 

Individuals who may benefit from CBT are often dealing with problems or medical conditions such as:

  • Relationship Conflicts
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Problems Coping with Stress
  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Sexual Addiction
  • Unmanageable Emotions 
  • Chronic Pain
  • Grief
  • Eating Disorders

How Does CBT Work For Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

The dynamic between the client and the therapist is vital during CBT treatment. Both parties must establish positive communication and trust to help the individual struggling with substance abuse to replace dysfunctional thoughts with positive perceptions and behaviors. When simultaneously implemented, this creates a blueprint that gives the individual the tools to overcome problematic behaviors.

CBT allows the individual to participate in his or her own recovery. For instance, the addict may read literature about substance abuse and even complete assignments related to lessons discussed in therapy. Assignments may include asking the individual to be more aware of their negative thoughts and problematic behaviors. During the next session, the therapist will review these thoughts and discuss healthy ways to respond to negative emotions. Through this process, individuals have the ability to take on an entirely new perspective and follow through with new and healthy behaviors. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy incorporates a number of steps that aim to help clients identify patterns of negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The CBT process generally includes:

  • Identifying difficult situations: Stressful life situations such as divorce or grief can negatively impact an individual’s psychological well-being and possibly contribute to the development of a mental health disorder. This first step allows the therapist to work with an individual to identify these issues. 
  • Identifying thoughts, emotions, and beliefs associated with difficult situations: This next step in the process will require the client to share their individual thoughts and beliefs about their problems upon meeting with the therapist. Clients will then reevaluate their beliefs about themselves, others, and major events in their lives. Sometimes, the therapist will encourage the individual to track their thoughts and patterns in a journal.
  • Address negative thought patterns: Identifying and addressing negative or inaccurate thoughts will help the client to see patterns of thinking that may be contributing to their underlying mental health disorders. The therapist will help the individual concentrate on the physical, emotional, and behavioral responses to situations in order to better manage their disorders.
  • Shifting negative thinking: Throughout the duration of CBT, the therapist may ask an individual to identify whether his/her view of a situation is based on inaccurate perception or facts. This awareness will encourage the individual to gradually shift their perception into positively viewing his/her situations and ultimately develop the habit of promoting positive thinking.
  • Structured and directive environment: Once the session begins, there is a specific agenda and techniques that are utilized during every session. The focus of CBT is whatever the client wants it to be. The person struggling with substance use disorder will express his or her goals to the therapist. The therapist will then direct the patient to attain these goals. 
  • Based on an educational model: Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the notion that most of our emotions and behavioral reactions are learned. The goal of CBT is to identify maladaptive behaviors and unlearn them. Then, individuals will learn alternative methods of reacting in healthier, more positive ways. The educational component of CBT allows this short-term program to produce long-term results.

CBT and Substance Use Disorder

CBT aims to shift the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors associated with drug abuse. Rather than specifically targeting substance use disorders, it focuses on the individual’s patterns. CBT ultimately caters to fit the client’s specific needs. Many individuals turn to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol because they are unable to cope with intrapersonal or interpersonal issues such as:

  • Lack of coping skills – Many individuals never learn effective coping skills to deal with challenges or stress that they may face in adult life. Therefore, many of these individuals turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Those who began abusing other substances at an early age often lack healthy concepts on how to deal with stress.
  • Chronic involvement in a drug-using lifestyle – Some individuals once had many effective strategies to cope with stress. However once the individual began abusing substances and then seeking recovery, the vicious cycle replaces those effective coping skills. 
  • Exposure to trauma – Many individuals that have been exposed to trauma do not have the effective skills utilized to deal with their trauma. Therefore, the individual begins to self-medicate to cope with the traumatic event and any emotions associated with the trauma. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Fort Lauderdale

At Agape Treatment Center, we understand that a majority of individuals entering treatment have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder that must be addressed simultaneously with their addiction. Effective addiction treatment is comprised of a blend of therapeutic activities that incorporate both issues. Substance abuse does not discriminate. Due to the addictive nature and properties associated with drugs and alcohol, substance use disorders can occur rapidly. In addition, substance abuse can trigger underlying mental health conditions.

The substances alter the brain’s functions, changing the way a person acts, thinks and behaves, and controls the user. As a result, life without the substance becomes incredibly difficult.

Agape Wellness offers treatment services to clients, based upon his or her individual needs. Clients are assessed through comprehensive evaluations at admission and throughout their participation in the treatment program.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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