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A Cognitive Behavioural Approach to Addictions

We treat individuals using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is proven to work for addictions. CBT assumes that learned behaviour and habitual thinking patterns play an important role in the development and persistence of addiction, and changing these patterns can help individuals break their addiction and move forward.

Virtuous and the vicious circles

Our moods, our thoughts, our actions. The three are enmeshed in a perpetual feedback loop such that our mood affects our thoughts (and vice versa), our actions affect our mood (and vice versa), our thoughts affect our actions (and vice versa). Vicious circles.

A healthy person might wake up one day feeling relaxed and positive, and as they are efficiently brushing their teeth, may find themselves thinking about how much they are looking forward to seeing an old friend this evening, how lucky they are with their choice of life partner, and how good that smell of hot croissants is floating up from the kitchen. And of course this rush of positive thinking serves only to enhance their good humour.

Later on at work, they find it easy to concentrate on writing that report, they enjoy meeting a client to negotiate a contract; and after work, after a 30 minute swim, they laugh easily with their old friend as they reminisce on times past. Thence to another healthy night’s sleep, relaxed and composed.

A virtuous circle of contentment that has become a habit in itself.

Thoughts as involuntary reflexes

Likewise, the discontented individual – be they an addict or someone in the throes of depression – is confined in a vicious circle of dark moods, negative thoughts and destructive behaviour.

The central tenet of CBT is that this pernicious feedback loop can be broken. And the plain fact that CBT is an effective psychological treatment proves this to be the case. Alter behaviour and mood changes, alter thinking and behaviour changes. Repeat and repeat until the cycle is disrupted.

However, negative thoughts flit through our consciousness so rapidly — or jab at us from the edge of conscious awareness — that they can be particularly tricky to catch hold of. And they are so engrained in habit, so much a part of our sense of self, that the hapless mind never seeks to question them. They have become involuntary reflexes to life’s knee-tapping hammer.

As much as we all like to feel we are unique there are number of common patterns of thought one could class as destructive. Glance down the list (above or to the right) and you surely recognise a handful. Now for a moment project yourself into the mind of our contented man, and compare.

The ‘cognitive’ element of CBT is concerned with noticing automatic thoughts and questioning their validity. The psychologist begins by encouraging the client to become acutely aware, moment by moment, of the destructive patterns of thought involved in sustaining the feedback loop.

Indeed, the very act of noticing – and the mental shift involved in becoming observer of oneself – is itself part of the process of challenging the automaticity of thought.

Thoughts in response to triggers

For the addict there are any number of triggers in the environment that can bring about a craving and tempt one to indulge it.

As much as we all like to feel we are unique there are number of common patterns of thought one could class as destructive. Glance down the list (above or to the right) and you surely recognise a handful. Now for a moment project yourself into the mind of our contented man, and compare.

The ‘cognitive’ element of CBT is concerned with noticing automatic thoughts and questioning their validity. The psychologist begins by encouraging the client to become acutely aware, moment by moment, of the destructive patterns of thought involved in sustaining the feedback loop.

Indeed, the very act of noticing – and the mental shift involved in becoming observer of oneself – is itself part of the process of challenging the automaticity of thought.