Cognitive Restructuring: Why It Works With Addiction

Addictive ThinkingBy Terence T. GorskiAuthor

Abstract: This detailed blog by Terence T. Gorski explains the biopsychosocial factors in chemical and behavioral addictions; describes how cognitive restructuring can change addictive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and shows how the process can provide organization to the treatment/recovery process while improving the collaboration between the addiction professional and the recovering person. References are provided that show that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the core method upon which Cognitive Restructuring for Addiction is based, is an evidence-based practice.

COGNITIVE means information processing in the brain.

RESTRUCTURING means changing how information is processed by the brain.

ADDICTION, described in DSM IV as Substance Use disorders), is described in DSM 5 as addictive disorders and has been expanded to include: Chemical Addictions (alcohol and other mind altering drugs of abuse); and Behavioral Addictions (gambling and other forms of compulsive mood altering behaviors).

All addictive disorders share a common set of similarities which include:

  • Addictive Beliefs (Addictive use is an effective way to stop my pain and solve my problems);
  • Automatic repetitive addictive thinking patterns (often called addictive rumination) that is difficult to self-regulate;
  • Obsession (Out-of-control thinking about the addiction);
  • Compulsion (the strong irrational urge to engage in addiction seeking behavior and addictive use);
  • Craving (A powerful urge based in a psychobiological response to cues or triggers that activates a powerful urge ton use in order to normalize the uncomfortable feelings caused by the biological symptoms of the craving);
  • Loss of Control (A pattern of compulsive use making it difficult self regulate the quantity, frequency, or duration of addictive use episodes);
  • Secondary life and health problems caused by the loss of control. These tend to be related to the specific addictive release being used); and
  • Continuation of use in spite of adverse consequences and a subjective desire to stop and reduce the use.

Each specific addictive disorder that is organized around a specific drug of choice or behavior of choice has unique differences that need to be considered in treatment. An alcoholic who does not use prescription or illicit drugs will participate in a different addictive culture and have adaptations in their addictive thinking that accommodates the focus of their addiction. The same is true of Prescription drug Addicts who don;t use illicit drugs, illegal drug users also involved in criminal drug-centered culture, gamblers, compulsive over-eaters, etc.

As a result, the above symptoms of addiction are caused by:

  • A complex individualized (idiosyncratic) biopsychosocial responses in each addicted person;
  • The specific substance or behavior that is the primary source of addictive release;
  • The social and cultural reaction to the use, abuse, and addiction to the specific substance or behavior.
  • The degree of addictive brain dysfunction;  and
  • The unique information processing style of the  addict originating in the family of origin and influenced by social and cultural experiences.

These differences, however, are accompanied by a cognitive or information processing styles that are similar in all addicted people and create:

  • Addictive Beliefs/Automatic Thinking based upon the mistaken belief that “addictive use will take away my pain and solve my problems!”
  • Craving which is a strong irrational urge to use addictively in spite of good reasons not to. Cravings usually do not result from rational decision-making. They are usually activated by environmental cues or triggers. and
  • Habitual addiction-seeking behaviors, activated by the cue/trigger and acted out automatically and unconsciously. These addiction seeking behaviors are known as early relapse warning signs. Acting them out puts addicts into high-risk situations that surround then with people, places, and things that will encourage and support their use of alcohol and other drugs.

Cognitive restructuring is a proven method for:

1. Stopping addictive thinking and challenging addictive beliefs;

2. Managing craving;

3. Stopping or redirecting addiction-seeking behaviors;

4. Avoiding or effectively managing high risk situations;

5. Having a well-rehearsed emergency plan to stop addictive use should it begin; and

6. Using a debriefing process (sometimes called a relapse autopsy) to examine past relapse episodes and near-miss experiences in order to learn how to avoid or effectively manage similar situations in the future.

Cognitive restructuring for addiction, which is at the core of Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT) is a core set of principles, practices, tools, and skills that can be used to enhance recovery and prevent relapse. When used effectively these principles and practices teach people:

  • How to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in ways that eliminate or reduce craving and drug seeking behavior.
  • How to manage high risk situations;
  • How to find a sense of meaning and purpose in recovery that is note satisfying than acting out an addictive lifestyle.

The Cognitive Restructuring for Addiction Workbook contains a series of clear, simple, and effective exercises that can enhance recovery while breaking the cycle of relapse.

The exercises in the workbook can be applied to a wide variety of chemical and behavioural addictions as well as other problems involving the repetitive and habitual use of a specific self-defeating behavior.

The underlying cognitive restructuring process is the same. Additional information that is specific to unique addictive behaviors can increase effectiveness. The manual is based upon evidenced-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles and practices that are effective with addiction, depression, PTSD, and a wide variety of other disorders that are lifestyle-related and subject to periodic regression or relapse. (CBT and related therapies are documented as evidence-based practices by SAMHSA-NREPP.

A small investment in this inexpensive workbook can:

  • Organize and structure the recovery/therapy process;
  • Provide home-work assignments that increase progress; and
  • Demonstrate the use of evidence-based practices.

Most importantly, the proper use of the exercises in this workbook can literally make the difference between helping people to move forward in recovery, or to slide backwards into addictive use and the horrible damage than can be caused.

Click here to order: THE COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING FOR ADDICTION WORKBOOK. This small investment could save you sobriety.

A Home Study that awards CEU’s for studying this workbook are available: email: tresa@cenaps.com or visit Gorski-CENAPS Home Studies 

 

2 Responses to Cognitive Restructuring: Why It Works With Addiction

  1. Love the photo Terry. Onward & Upward, Steve G.

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