CBT and Language in Addictions Recovery

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A big part of taking back your life is silencing the inner critic.

As an addiction counsellor in Vancouver and a former addict, I know how changing your thoughts can change your life. Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is commonly used by counsellors to help with depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictions.

When we use CBT in addiction counselling for a substance use disorder (SUD), our primary goal is to find connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions and increase awareness of how these things impact recovery. Many times, substance abuse springs from negative feelings and emotions. Past experiences and environmental factors may trigger these. Drugs and alcohol function as a coping strategy. People essentially try to self-medicate using drugs and alcohol to numb feelings, even when they know they’re self-harming for relief that’s only temporary. 

CBT allows us to rewire our minds. It focuses on challenging unhelpful thoughts and shifting negative patterns. This is incredibly important when working with recovering addicts looking for relief from anxiety, depression, and more.

Using CBT to Silence the Inner Bully

As an addictions counsellor in Vancouver, helping patients deal with their inner bully is one of the essential facets of my recovery program. As we collaboratively work to rewire the brain, people become cognizant and learn to redirect the inner thought processes that can send them spiralling. Part of this is being vigilant of language when thinking of ourselves. Words have power, and phrases like failure, worthless, and disappointment can be incredibly triggering to someone struggling with addictions, potentially resulting in a relapse. 

Changing how we think about ourselves is a process that takes practice. People who have resorted to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism are often caught in a cycle of self-loathing. They have forgotten they also possess good qualities and can only focus on the negative. CBT works to break out of these cycles by following a few simple steps:

Be Aware

The first step is becoming aware when the inner bully is vocal. When your mood is sinking, pay attention to what you’re telling yourself.

Ask Why?

The brain is powerful and mysterious. When a thought pops up, ask yourself why. Are you subconsciously trying to protect yourself or prepare for disappointment? Is there a risk you’re hesitant to take? It’s important to honour the fact that the thought is occurring for a reason—maybe something in the past. However, it shouldn’t weigh down on the future.

Ground Yourself

When the mind is spiralling, consider how to disprove negative thoughts. Where do you excel? Try to remember a time you’ve done well. Focus on evidence that disproves the belief. For example:

  • What is the whole story? 
  • Is the thought rooted in habit or the reality of the current situation?
  • Try to question the belief—why is it occurring?

Focus on Language

Since thoughts, feelings, and behaviours feed into each other, we must be conscious of how we think about ourselves to end negative cycles. Cultivate positive words that sum up your life, experiences, and complexities. Healthy examples could include:

  • Open minded
  • Adventurous
  • Resourceful
  • Gregarious
  • Witty
  • Persistent

Come up with Positive Word Associations For You

To get started, grab a piece of paper and think about yourself from every angle. What are some of the positive traits people have mentioned? What makes you happy? What are your strengths?

Most 60 to 90-day rehabilitation programs include CBT to help learn coping techniques. That’s because automatic negative thoughts are a root cause of the depression and anxiety common in many disorders and addictions. It’s important to silence the inner critic when we’re telling ourselves a narrative that’s making things worse. Positive word associations are just one aspect of CBT that allows us to do that.

Tailored Programs in Addiction Recover

Addiction recovery is never a one-size-fits-all solution, but no one has to face the journey alone. Learn more about addictions counselling in Vancouver and Surrey, and how I can tailor my program to your specific needs. I invite you to schedule a free half-hour discovery call. Learn more, discuss challenges, and find out if we’re a fit.

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