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November 24, 2022

Understanding Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts: Is CBT Similar to 12-Step Programs?

CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, has been used for many years in the realm of psychology. Today, it is also being used as an addiction treatment in Massachusetts, as well as in other states. Of course, there’s a lot of confusion around CBT and how it compares to more traditional 12-step programs. Is it similar?


What Is CBT?


Understanding Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts: Is CBT Similar to 12-Step Programs?First, let’s define what CBT is, and then we’ll compare it to 12-step programs. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on changing a person’s behaviors. According to the APA, cognitive behavioral therapy “is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems, including depression anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness.”


There are several core pillars here, including that addiction/psychological problems are based at least in part on unhelpful or problematic ways of thinking. They can also be based on patterns of behavior (habits), and that by learning new ways of thinking and behaving, people can change themselves for the better.


12-Step Programs


Most programs offering addiction treatment in Massachusetts offer a plan that includes the 12 Steps in some form. The original 12 Steps were created by Bill W. for use with Alcoholics Anonymous, but they have proven incredibly useful for helping people with a wide range of other addictions, too. 


The point of this plan is to give you the strength and determination necessary to recover from substance use in a healthy way, as well as encourage you to rely on others for support, and to extend your support to other people suffering from addiction. 


How the 12 Steps and CBT Intersect


While CBT and 12-step programs may seem dissimilar, they intersect in several ways. Here are a few examples:


  • They both focus on the fact that unhelpful/faulty beliefs, emotions, and ways of thinking can cause problems in your life. For instance, problem thinking is often at the root of alcoholism or drug use. Faulty beliefs and emotions can exacerbate drinking and drug use, as well, even if those beliefs and thoughts are patently untrue.


  • They both focus on how changing those beliefs and thought patterns can help you create positive change. A change in how you see yourself and the world around you can have profound, ongoing implications for how you act, what you believe, and how you treat yourself and others, all of which affect drinking and substance abuse.


  • They both focus on improving physical, mental, and emotional health through strategic steps/processes. Improved mental, physical, and emotional health offers the resilience and flexibility necessary to overcome problematic behaviors, such as drug use and alcoholism.


  • They both focus on the role of taking responsibility and acceptance within the overall process of healing. Without acceptance and the ability to take responsibility for your actions (and the consequences of those actions), there can be no lasting recovery.


The CBT-Integrated 12-Step Program


While both the 12 Steps and CBT are used separately, as well as in conjunction with one another, there are also CBT-integrated 12-step programs. This is a secularized version of the original 12 Steps created by Bill W. That program focused on having the individual give up control to a higher power (God), but in the secularized version, the focus is on empowering the individual to take control over their own life. Understanding Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts: Is CBT Similar to 12-Step Programs?


This can include God/religion but focuses more on enabling people to identify their problem(s) and then using insights to identify root causes. Only when those causes are understood can a change in thinking and behavior take place. Addressing problematic thinking and behaviors can include using problem-solving skills to deal with challenging situations that spark the thinking or behavior, learning how to calm your mind and relax the body, and more.


Is One Better Than the Other?


CBT offers a different way to approach addiction treatment in Massachusetts. It can be used in tandem with the conventional 12 Steps, with a modified 12-step program, or integrated with the 12 Steps to create a secularized approach that may work for more people. However, none is better than the other. Each one offers something slightly different and may be applicable to different individuals.


In Conclusion


Ultimately, CBT is similar to the 12 Steps in many respects. Both share similar goals – improving the mental, physical, and emotional health of people struggling with drug or alcohol use. However, they are not identical. This allows them to be combined into unique configurations that may offer more benefit to specific individuals than either program can deliver on its own. CBT is and will remain an important part of addiction treatment in Massachusetts.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/img-ed-480x572.jpg[/author_image]  [author_info]Reviewed by Ed Lepage, Executive Director

Ed Lepage completed the drug and alcohol certificate program at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has been working in the substance abuse dependency field for the past seven years. He has also worked extensively in peer recovery-based programs offering “real-world experience” to those that suffer from substance use dependency. Full Bio [/author_info] [/author]