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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - for addictions

Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the world's most widely used and effective therapies for a variety of problems: smoking withdrawal, depression, (alcohol and/or drug) addictions, eating disorders, anxiety, panic attacks and various phobias. It is also very widely clinically researched, safe, and its basic concept is not complicated and includes many practical exercises which make it very effective.

The basic principles of cognitive behavioural therapy

The foundation of therapy is understanding the relationship between one's thoughts, emotions and actions. If these relationships are understood, they can be put in order and made healthier, so that harmful decisions that lead to destructive behaviour, such as alcohol or drug use, can be avoided. Once the basic principles of this therapy have been learned, they can be applied in other areas of life, such as getting rid of other addictions like smoking or gambling. Perhaps a small practical exercise will best help to understand the interplay of these relationships.


How the relationship between thoughts, emotions and actions works

Trust the process and try to complete this simple exercise.

1. Imagine a place where you would like to be. Imagine what it looks like, who is around you.

2 Describe how you feel... How would you feel if you were in that place right now?

3. Now get angry!


Was it easy to get angry? Were you able to get angry in a place that was probably beautiful, pleasant and evoked positive emotions? It was probably difficult and you must have initially thought of a negative event, situation or person that might have angered you or that upset the order of this imaginary place.

This small experiment demonstrates the relationship between thoughts, emotions and actions. In fact, this technique is also widely used in marketing. That is why many advertisements include beautiful photographs and slogans that evoke positive emotions and invite the potential customer to act now - to buy the product. How many times have you bought something in the impulse of the moment and later regretted it? Feeling guilty that you have spent your money... In this case, we are driven by positive emotions that promise us short-term satisfaction, that we will feel a sense of happiness when we buy the product or that we will be like the beautiful lady or gentleman in the advertisement. These positive emotions can be experienced even without buying the product. The same happens with negative emotions when we don't necessarily want to suppress them. It is possible to experience them without harming ourselves and/or others.


To be able to survive unpleasant emotions

It is a fact of life and a reality that everyone experiences both positive and negative events in their daily lives. Sometimes events can be neutral, but the power of thoughts, including basic self-beliefs, can make them negative. An example is quite simple: a workplace situation where a client or an employer has made comments about the work they have done. The comments may be constructive or less constructive criticism of the work performance. The way in which the criticism is expressed is beyond our control, as it depends on the emotional intelligence of the person giving the criticism. However, we can have the most direct influence on the way in which we perceive the criticism. At this point, we are overwhelmed by thoughts such as 'I am good for nothing'. I made a mistake again. I will definitely be fired. I'm definitely not getting a pay rise!" But these thoughts may not be true - nobody is going to fire you, you are an excellent professional in your field, but this time you made a mistake. Thoughts create negative emotions, most likely about the future, about things that may never happen. In the end, everyone tries to cope with these thoughts as best they can. One person dumps the emotions on the shop assistant, another on the family, another tries to suppress them, for example by using alcohol or drugs. Short-term comfort is found. Later, however, the consequences of one's actions will come back to one's mind, leading to feelings of guilt, disappointment and other negative emotions that will continue the vicious circle.


"We don't live in isolation, there are people around us in society whose behaviour and actions we cannot influence. But we can influence how we react to these events, what thoughts we think, what emotions we feel and how we act. Of course, this is not easy. However, as we begin to develop a healthy relationship between our thoughts, emotions and actions, we will realise that the real struggle is not with external factors, but with ourselves and our response to events."

Psychologist Krišjānis Zaremba


Cognitive behavioural therapy for addiction

Due to its long-term effectiveness, cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the treatment methods used at the Sober way Recovery Centre. Therapy can take place in both group and individual sessions. The basic principles of the therapy are the same, but the application of different tactics is adapted to each individual. Cognitive behavioural therapy aims to help the person recognise thought processes and beliefs and to provide tools and tactics to learn how to experience unpleasant emotions constructively and openly with themselves and others, without running away from them or trying to suppress them through destructive actions. Once we learn to identify the irritants that can cause errors in our thinking and, subsequently, in our actions, we can do the fact-checking to ignore many of these thoughts completely, to find rational explanations for others, and simply to live with others. By applying this filter, it turns out that we do not need so many strategies and alternative strategies to be able to correct our actions.


"In cognitive behavioural therapy counselling, we learn to be open with ourselves and others, to filter our thoughts, to find alternative explanations, and to find alternative patterns of behaviour. For example, changing the route from work to home so that you don't have to pass by a shop where you can buy alcohol, finding a hobby that you can do on Friday nights so that you don't have to go to friends who drink alcohol."

Psychologist Krišjānis Zaremba

Increasing the effectiveness of the method

In addition to being effective in its own right, cognitive behavioural therapy can speed up the recovery process and improve the effectiveness of addiction treatment.

Changing the environment

Recovery and rehabilitation centres are not intended to punish the addicted person by isolating him or her from society, but to help the person to avoid irritants in order to speed up the process and make it easier and more effective. Avoiding people and situations that may influence thoughts and emotions in recovery until the person has learned to recognise them and choose non-destructive alternatives.

Work with family and loved ones

Friends and family also play an important role in the recovery process. If you help your family to understand the addicted person, they too can adjust their thoughts, emotions and actions in favour of the overall situation. This, of course, will benefit everyone.

Additional methods and therapies

Cognitive behavioural therapy can be combined with other therapies to achieve even better and longer-lasting results, as it gives the person additional tools to maintain a healthy relationship between thoughts, emotions and actions. For example, experiential therapy, which we use extensively at Sober way Recovery Centre, meditation, mindfulness training and coaching sessions.

The road to recovery begins with the decision to get well

Only the person can make the decision to stop using intoxicants. Pressure, insults, threats will not help and will only backfire.

If there is someone in your circle of friends and family who you think needs help, we invite you to ... for more information on action strategies that can help them make the decision.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, we invite you to ... for more information about the services of Sober way Recovery Centre.

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