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Cognitive Therapy for Addiction

Abstract: Description of cognitive therapy for addictions.

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Cognitive Therapy for Addiction

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Written by: Wendy Moelker, Psychologist in charge, tutor, Emergis center for mental health care, Goes, the Netherlands.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 22 Jul 2008.

What is cognitive therapy for addiction?


Cognitive therapy is always conducted by a therapist, who has had special training in this method. The therapy can take place either in group sessions or individually (with the therapist). Sessions take about forty-five minutes to an hour on average.

Cognitive therapy is based on the concept that people have certain patterns of thoughts about things that they do or experiences in daily life. Together with the therapist, the thoughts related to the addiction are determined. These thoughts are often thoughts that maintain the addiction or discourage the person to cut the habit. Typical of these thoughts is that you believe that they are true, but can't prove it, and also that you are afraid that these thoughts are true or may become true. Examples of these thoughts are:

  • My addiction is stronger than me; I have no control over it.
  • People think I am a failure because I am addicted.
  • I will not find new friends when I cut the habit.
  • I am just a weak person.

Subsequently, the therapy will try to convert these thoughts to more useful and positive thoughts through assignments and so-called provocation exercises. Examples of more positive and useful thoughts are:

  • I don't know if my addiction is stronger than me; I can only find out if I fully submit myself to the treatment.
  • I don't know what other people think about me; I know for myself that I am not a failure just because I'm addicted.
  • I talk to other people easily and I often have a positive attitude, so it is certainly possible to make new friends. I just need to give myself some time.
  • I am working on my addiction and I am trying to resume my life, so I am certainly not a failure.
These new thoughts are not formed within a day; they need time to be accepted by the person himself.
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