Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and substance misuse

Some evidence – there is enough evidence to indicate that this can be a helpful treatment option.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that uses a problem-solving approach to substance misuse. The approach involves identifying unhelpful, unrealistic thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to your substance use (e.g. “my friends would find me boring if I stopped”).

Once you have identified these thoughts and beliefs, your professional will encourage you to base your behaviour on more realistic and helpful thoughts (e.g. “my real friends will support me”).

CBT can also help you to identify triggers that cause you to use substances, such as:

  • stress
  • social anxiety
  • being in "high-risk" environments, such as clubs and parties

Your CBT therapist will teach you how to avoid certain triggers and how to cope with any triggers that you can’t avoid.

CBT is usually delivered as 60 minute sessions once a week for around 12 weeks. There will usually also be some sessions which involve your family. CBT can be more helpful if you do not have other problems in addition to substance misuse and you have good social support (e.g. from your family and friends).

Treatments outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the treatment options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

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