Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help an Alcoholic Partner?


Alcoholism and binge drinking can be frightening disorders, though if you or your loved ones are struggling, they’re not alone. According to a study from 2019, 25.8% of people aged 18 or older reported heavy binge drinking with 6.3% saying they engaged in frequent, and heavy alcohol use.

That’s close to 14.5 million people and of that number, only 10% get help or treatment. The thing is, treatment plans like CBT for alcohol misuse work, especially when combined with a PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program).

But what’s involved with CBT in particular? And can it really help an alcoholic partner? 

Read on to find out why it’s an effective solution.

Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help an Alcoholic Partner?

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

First, we should mention that CBT, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, is a proven treatment for AUD (alcohol use disorder), both as a standalone treatment and with other treatment plans.

It’s a short-term therapy scheme that typically involved 12 or fewer sessions to see results. The core principles focus on a person’s cognition, their beliefs about themselves and the world, as well as how they feel about the people around them. Within CBT, there are 3 levels of cognition to be aware of. These are:

  • Core beliefs
  • Cognitive distortions
  • Automatic thoughts

CBT aims to focus on these and work through any disruptions or traumas within those realms.

How Does It Work?

At its core, CBT differs from other therapies because it focuses on the attitudes and feelings which drive addiction. It then seeks to replace those behaviors with more positive and healthy thought patterns. The goal of CBT is to help those with AUD understand that what they are doing is potentially harmful, and seeks to offer coping mechanisms to help prevent them.

These are the 3 primary goals of CBT:

  • To change negative patterns of thought
  • To discourage unhelpful and harmful behaviors
  • To teach effective coping strategies

How CBT Differs From Other Therapies

Ultimately, CBT has a set of rules and benefits that it allows, all of which make it an outstanding solution for any kind of substance use disorder. The following characteristics are what actually set it apart from other kinds of therapy:

  • Accessibility
  • Problem-orientated
  • Collaborative
  • Self-driven
  • Present-day focused

As you can see, there’s a significant focus on the “now,” which a lot of therapies don’t cover. Many people struggling with AUD or other substance use disorders worry about the future and what’s to come, which drives them to seek coping solutions.

How CBT Works for Alcohol Misuse

When combined with other treatments, such as an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or alcohol therapy, CBT has been shown to be beneficial in treating alcohol addiction. Its effects are also typically more long-lasting than those of other treatments. When paired with a good PHP, CBT can be extremely helpful.

In fact, according to a study participants of a PHP were more associated with abstinence at their follow-ups than those who did not attend, though it’s important to note that aftercare planning is really important.

Below are some of the core techniques and principles of CBT, which is what makes it so effective in PHP and IOP systems.

Types of Techniques

While it may seem complicated at first, the techniques behind CBT are well researched and incredibly useful. They’re designed to target distorted thinking and help the patient improve their outlook on life. When done in combination, these techniques can be life-changing.

Cognitive Restructuring

The cognitive restructuring allows the person to notice problematic thinking processes. Patients can use this sort of talk therapy to identify and correct unfavorable thought patterns, also known as cognitive distortions. It can also help people rewire their negative abstinence beliefs.

Behavioral Assignments

You may know these as homework assignments, and they can be used to help someone apply what they’re learned once they leave the PHP. They’re ideal for helping a patient recover from alcoholism because they reinforce the ideas and behaviors learned in therapy. 

Completing these projects can help improve the long-term effectiveness of the treatment.

Exposure Therapy

While this can seem like traumatic therapy, it’s done in a safe and controlled environment. When the patient is exposed to their substance misuse signals, they’re more likely to experience the feelings they need to combat. This makes it easier for them to process those feelings with no real danger or potential setbacks.


This teaches patients how to cope with stressful events in their daily life. Some examples of areas that would benefit from problem-solving are: 

  • Chronic illnesses
  • Work pressures
  • Relationship concerns

This is a significant phase in the healing process since it helps patients overcome their AUD by teaching them to find healthy solutions to life’s challenges. 

Mindfulness and Breathing Skills

As part of CBT treatments, mental health practitioners will often teach relaxation and breathing methods. These techniques are a type of self-help that has several mental health benefits.

Not only can they help someone who is struggling reduce their stress and improve their overall health, but the desire to misuse their trigger substances may even be reduced. Breathing exercises have also been shown to help those with depression, which is linked to drinking.

Successive Approximation

This final technique is simple but incredibly effective. The idea is that we should reinforce positive behaviors in small approximations, increments, or steps. This is a process where the rewards for sobriety see a gradual increase. It’s gradual for a reason, since too much stimulation in one go, and then no validation can send the patient backward. 

Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help an Alcoholic Partner? | Northstar Recovery Center in Southborough, MA | PHP IOP and OP in MA

How to Get Help With a PHP

Not only is CBT a universally recognized therapy technique on its own, but when it’s combined with a PHP in Massachusetts, it can also be incredibly rewarding and beneficial. This is because the patient will learn to:

  • Identify their distorted thinking patterns
  • Recognize their triggers
  • Develop coping strategies
  • Use critical thinking
  • Build their own path to treatment
  • Face their fears, not avoid them
  • Build their own confidence
  • Communicate in more effective ways

A PHP is also particularly useful for those who need more access to medical staff but don’t want to or need to go through an inpatient process. This is also especially good for those who have already finished a residential treatment plan but have a chance of relapsing.

Starting the Journey to Recovery

Remember, there’s no stigma to seeking help. It’s for the betterment of everyone, including you and your loved ones. Everyone deserves the best quality of life they can get, and alcohol makes that challenging.

So if you’re at a point where you’re considering addiction treatment in MA and are looking for a great PHP center, look no further than North Star Recovery Center. Contact us today to see how we can help you and your partner achieve a healthier, happier life.

Northstar Recovery Center in Southborough, MA is made up of a team of experienced, dedicated, and compassionate addiction treatment professionals. We want to see our community heal from the effects of the opioid epidemic, alcohol addiction, and other substance use disorders.

Day Treatment Program in MA

The Day Treatment in Massachusetts, also referred to as PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) or IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), is the highest level of care offered at Northstar Recovery Center. This addiction treatment option encompasses comprehensive clinical care and behavioral therapies. In the initial stages of recovery from addiction, it's crucial to have robust support to navigate both physical and emotional challenges. Our dedicated team at Northstar Recovery Center, located in Southborough, MA, and West Springfield, MA, is committed to assisting you in establishing a solid foundation for a lifelong recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Clients typically visit our addiction treatment center in Massachusetts each weekday for several hours, engaging in counseling sessions and other necessary interventions. This approach ensures a balanced and effective recovery process, tailored to individual needs within the framework of Day Treatment.


Individual, Group, and Family Counseling in Massachusetts

Addiction thrives in isolation, which is why group counseling sessions are a foundational part of our addiction treatment plans. In group sessions, you’ll gain perspective on your struggles with substance abuse and can connect with others who understand your experiences. Family counseling can help your loved ones understand the disease of addiction, navigate conflict and build healthier relationships. In individual counseling sessions, you’ll be able to work through personal issues like past trauma with the help of an experienced therapist.

Learn More About Addiction Counseling in Massachusetts

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