Cognitive therapy for alcohol treatment has been used to help those with alcohol problems including alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, a therapy approach very similar to cognitive behavior therapy assumes that individuals can learn to recognize and control the thoughts and urges that give rise to problem drinking.
While cognitive therapy for alcohol treatment can focus on helping individuals to drink moderately and helping individuals to abstain from drinking altogether, by the time most people seek help, it is usually a better decision to work on the goal of abstaining from alcohol.
The strategies in using cognitive therapy for alcohol problems are similar to those used in treating other addictions including drugs and smoking and to a large extent, gambling and food.
The essential idea is to learn how to control one’s impulses and challenge and change a variety of unhealthy ideas like, “I have to have what I want”, “ I CAN’T control my thoughts and urges”, “It would be terrible if I can’t have what I want immediately”, “I NEED a drink”, “I “SHOULD” be able to drink like everybody else”, etc. In cognitive therapy for alcohol, clients learn not to blindly accept their ideas, but rather to examine them closely and come up with smarter and more accurate ideas. Ultimately clients learn to first tolerate their urges and then by changing their thoughts, their urges decrease until they largely disappear.
As a psychologist based in Boca Raton,Florida, I am in the middle of a large number of treatment centers and half-way houses which are largely based on a 12 step-AA treatment model. While AA has helped a great many individuals, it has not helped everyone and many people seek and can benefit from alternative approaches like cognitive therapy for alcohol and related substances treatment.