CBT for Alcohol and Substance Use
Mirco Magi is a Senior independent CBT Therapist with Onebright in London. He is BABCP accredited in CBT and experienced in the role of alcohol and substances in maintaining the cycle of depression and anxiety.
The use of alcohol and substances are an integral part of our society.
Their use is inextricable from our traditions and our way to socialise, to manage our emotional difficulties and to help us to function in an extremely competitive environment. Given the messages and the pressure we receive every day, it looks incredibly unfair to label those who struggle to control substances as lazy, immoral, somehow faulty.
CBT recognise the effort it takes to remain afloat and how difficult it is sometimes in life to meet impossible demands. In particular, given the fact that it seems like everybody around us is having fun drinking and getting high. In this environment, once we have lost control of our way to manage our emotions, we are then told that we should face a life of abstinence and sustained loss, our continuous pain to be a testament of our faulty regulation switch.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy understands that emotions are a product of our thoughts. Thoughts are our tools to shape our realities. There are ways to examine our tools, to see which ones are better suited to our needs and which ones need to be modified or left behind. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy offers the possibility to create a different relationship with the mood-altering substances that are all around us. Rather than a blaming, moralistic attitude, CBT Therapy provides a practical, scientific approach to the problem of managing our emotions and meeting our needs in an alternative, effective way. As CBT Therapists we recognise that at times abstinence is the only way. Other times, controlled use remains a possibility. If we do not create, though, a different relationship with the thoughts that keep suggesting us the use of alcohol and substances as the only way to deal with painful emotions, we will continue to live in a continuing, constant battle with ourselves. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy aims to teach how to recuperate the variety of sources of pleasure, confidence, worth and connection that are present in their history but were unfortunately forgotten and dismissed. Those alternatives will constitute the best antidote to the sorrow and anger that frequently comes with having to change or abandon our relationship with substances that often were our companions for many valuable years of our life.
The Statutory services have an essential role in managing severe cases where full physical dependency is in place. They do a great job, and we as CBT Therapists fully recognise it. Unfortunately, those who are in painful, difficult and risky situations, yet not entirely dependent, are sometimes left behind. Often, due to the difficulties that our health services are encountering, cases that are less than very severe are not met with the attention that they deserve until it becomes too late and lives are damaged.
We know that we can act before some important relationships are ruined, jobs lost, friendships abandoned. We have experience in working with people who are using “traditional” substances, like alcohol, cocaine, opiates, cannabis, but also with those experimenting with New Psychoactive Substances such as mephedrone, crystal meth, ketamine, GBL-GBH, 2CB, spice.
There is a possibility to act before severe damage is done and to return enjoying life to the full.