Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helpful for Those Suffering from Depression, Substance Abuse

Nearly 19 million Americans suffer from depression. Many are also battling problems with substance abuse as well. The two often go hand in hand, but people rarely get treated for both. It’s more common to seek treatment for the substance abuse or depression in isolation without examining how these two conditions interact. A new study offers hope to those plagued with both ailments.

In a study of 300 individuals, researchers at RAND Corp. examined patients at the behavioral health services facilities in Los Angeles. The study took place over a three year period of time from 2006 to 2009. Most of the patients were suffering from major depressive disorder, and in an effort to find the best possible method of treatment for them, health professionals experimented with different methods of care.

The facilities alternated treatment every quarter. The first four months, patients were treated with traditional care for substance abuse only. The next four months, patients were also given cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT gained popularity in the 1960s and is a method of talk therapy that is aimed at changing dysfunctional emotions, thoughts, and conduct underlying anxiety and mood disorders as well as problems with substance abuse. The idea is that by changing thoughts, we can alter behavior.

Patients receiving both traditional care and CBT faired best. Patients started showing marked improvement after just three months of treatment. However, after six months of treatment, 44 percent of those receiving just the regular care for substance abuse showed few signs of remaining depression, but that number increased to 64 percent when CBT was added. Even after leaving the treatment facility, those who received CBT had fewer instances of relapse in terms of days of drug abuse or drinking than the control group.

The use of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat mood disorders and substance abuse is nothing new. A derivative of CBT called problem solving therapy (PST) has been used to treat aging baby boomers as they deal with depression, which can often lead to substance abuse and vice versa. PST assists patients in working through dysfunctional emotions associated with such issues as the loss of loved one, loneliness, or feeling insignificant after retirement. When dealing with these situations, everyday life can seem overwhelming. PST is a systematic way that helps people deal with their emotions and problems in a healthy way.

Many times people do not understand how thoughts impact their behavior. CBT offers hope by showing these individuals what destructive thought patterns look like and how to change them. Keeping a positive mental state of mind is key to dealing with life’s challenges, and learning how to effectively manage problems and dysfunctional emotions can help those suffering to avoid falling back into a state of depression.

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