Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Treat Teen Addiction

By The Fix staff 08/29/18

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help teenagers connect to their internal motivation by realizing the ways that their use of drugs and alcohol is destructive in their lives.

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Group of four teenage girls.

For teenagers who struggle with addiction, establishing life in sobriety can be daunting. The teen years are supposed to be the time when we learn to live as adults, slowly separating from our parents and learning to cope with the challenges of life. Abusing substances can make this learning process much more difficult.

Most teens who struggle with substance abuse have been using since they were very young and rely on drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with difficult emotions and life challenges. They don’t know what their lives will look like without drugs and alcohol. Because addiction is a disorder of the mind which interferes with all areas of one's life, early intervention for teens can change the course of their future. 

Oftentimes, this requires professional guidance. Teen treatment centers like Safe Landing, which offers inpatient and outpatient treatment for teens in Miami, Florida, use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, to help teenagers overcome their addiction and learn healthier coping strategies. CBT is a method of treatment that focuses on identifying the mental and emotional roots of harmful behaviors and correcting those through implementation of more positive coping mechanisms. This approach to treatment is useful for patients of all ages, but it is especially helpful for teens in recovery because it fosters mindfulness, self-awareness and personal accountability for one’s actions.

These qualities are important for teenagers, because they often come into drug or alcohol treatment involuntarily. Whether they’ve been court-ordered into treatment or compelled by their parents, many teens in treatment are initially driven by external motivation rather than an internal desire to get clean and sober.

However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help teenagers connect to their internal motivation by realizing the ways that their use of drugs and alcohol is destructive in their lives. Often, when they start to understand this, they find motivation to work toward sobriety so they can move forward with recovery. Through CBT, teenagers first recognize that they need to take responsibility for their actions; even if there was past trauma or family history of addiction, personal accountability for self-destructive behavior is vital to achieving and maintaining sobriety.

After addressing their past in therapy, teenagers are able to start planning for their future. Many teens in treatment haven’t established plans or goals because they were living moment-to-moment in addiction. However, by developing their self-awareness through CBT, teenage patients can begin asking themselves what they want from the future, whether that is to pursue higher education, travel or learn a trade.

When teenagers leave treatment and begin working toward their goals, CBT practices can help them stay on track. While many teens struggle with impulse control, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help teens recognize what mental or emotional triggers cause them to act out. Through CBT, teens learn to use healthier means of self-expression to deal with these triggers. Rather than using drugs or alcohol, they might dance, paint, or listen to music in order to deal with their triggers.

As teens become accustomed to using these healthy coping strategies, they build their confidence in their ability to live a healthy, happy life without substance use.

Safe Landing is a recovery center for teens in Miami. Learn more by calling 1-877-624-1030 or emailing [email protected].

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