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Have you ever heard of Cognitive Processing Therapy or CPT?

If you are among those that have heard of it, you may be wondering why it would be used as a therapy for substance abuse addiction. After all, it is generally a therapy used to treat people suffering from a severe trauma, like PTSD. The truth is, most people who are suffering with an addiction problem have experienced some form of trauma in their life. According to statistics from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, almost 76% of individuals who are addicted to alcohol or drugs have been exposed to some type of trauma.

Trauma – The Meaning

When we hear or use the word “trauma” in everyday language we understand it to mean an event that is highly stressful. But when it is used in psychological terms, the word has a different meaning. According to Esther Giller, President of the Sidran Institute for Traumatic Stress Education and Advocacy, trauma and traumatic events “refer to extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope and leaves that person fearing death, annihilation, mutilation, or psychosis. The individual may feel emotionally, cognitively, and physically overwhelmed.”

Ms. Giller goes on to explain that trauma is subjective and unique to each person’s experience of the event. Often the circumstances of the traumatic event include abuse of power, terror, or loss leading to an extreme feeling of fear which could result in mental or physical harm, destruction or death.

Additional causes of trauma include:

  • Helplessness
  • Confusion
  • Pain
  • Betrayal of trust
  • Entrapment
  • Powerlessness

Addiction and trauma are closely related and intertwined and often result in feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, sadness, or guilt. Some individuals become numb to emotions, feel stuck and are unable to recover and move on with their life.

Causes of Trauma

The first thing many people think of when they think of psychological trauma is post traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, caused by being in combat. However, there are many other causes. Natural disasters, sexual or domestic assault, or being the victim of a crime are also possible causes of PTSD.

Additional causes of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder include:

  • Child abuse and/or neglect
  • Violence
  • Accidents
  • Being bullied
  • Extreme deprivation

PTSD can be the result of a one-time occurrence or a recurring or chronic situation. In many instances, people who witness the traumatic event can also suffer from PTSD.

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

According to the National Center for PTSD, cognitive processing therapy is an evidence-based treatment for PTSD that helps individuals realize how trauma has affected them and changed their views about others, themselves, and the world in general. Cognitive processing therapy helps them to recognize the negative thoughts and emotions that the trauma has caused. The negative thoughts are called “stuck points” because they stop the individual from recovering. CPT helps people get through the stuck points by teaching them how to think through those points and find new perspectives that are more balanced.

The following are the main parts of cognitive processing therapy:

  • Understanding trauma, post traumatic stress disorder, and cognitive processing therapy
  • Processing your trauma
  • Decreasing your fear responses
  • Identifying and learning to challenge your thoughts about trauma and developing new thoughts that decrease your anxiety

How Cognitive Processing Therapy Helps Addiction Recovery

Many people with addictions to drugs or alcohol use these substances as a form of escape from the pain that past traumatic events have caused. When cognitive processing therapy is used as part of their recovery process, these individuals are able to take control of their emotions and feelings. Living with trauma can change the way a person feels about themselves and the rest of the world. For example, some people believe they are responsible for what happened. Others feel that the world is a very dangerous place or that they are not able to trust anyone. These beliefs stop them from being happy and living a normal life.

Often the only relief an addict feels is attaining the next “high.” The drugs or alcohol become their method of coping with the trauma they experienced. Using this coping method is a way to cover up their negative feelings and emotions. As long as they are under the influence of the substance, their negative emotions remain masked or buried. They do not have to experience or process their feelings. Getting high makes them feel better initially, but the pleasurable feeling is only temporary. It occurs because their substance of choice activates the reward centers of the brain.

The Importance of Getting the Right Help

When you or a loved one is suffering with an addiction problem, finding the right help is essential. At Canyon Vista Recovery Center, in Mesa, Arizona, the professionals are there to help you work through your past unresolved trauma. As part of your recovery process, they will guide you through the barriers that your past traumatic events have placed in your way, allowing you to move forward emotionally and helping you reach your goal of long term sobriety and living a healthier, happier life.

Learn more about programs offered at Canyon Vista Recovery Center
Contact us at
(888) 979-1840