An exclusive residential treatment center in the heart of Malibu, The Meadows Malibu has just 12 beds, which means our clients receive fully individualized treatment and the undivided attention of our staff.



The Meadow Malibu offers customized residential treatment for drug and alcohol addiction using a dual diagnosis approach that goes beyond physical symptoms to address the underlying issues and set you up for lasting recovery.

Our Approach

Our Approach

Our primary goal for treatment is always to help clients find freedom from drugs or alcohol and provide them with the tools they need to reach new levels of health, happiness and success in recovery.



Addiction is an insidious disease, and when you or a loved one needs help it can be hard to know where to turn. We understand. That’s why we have highly trained admissions specialists ready to walk you through a free, brief, and confidential screening.




brain neurons firing

How Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help You During Addiction Treatment?

Written By:

By Wesley Gallagher

If you have any experience with therapy or mental health, then you probably recognize the term Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). But what you might not know is that CBT, while beneficial for a range of mental health issues, has also been proven effective in treating addiction. In fact, CBT for addiction is widely used in substance use disorder treatment, often with great and lasting success.

Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on helping you change negative or unproductive thinking patterns so that you can achieve greater emotional balance and respond to yourself and the world in healthier ways.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on helping you change negative or unproductive thinking patterns so that you can achieve greater emotional balance and respond to yourself and the world in healthier ways.

The theory behind CBT is that the way we see and think about the world influences our behavior, so the goal in this form of talk therapy is to identify thoughts that are not an accurate assessment of reality. Once these thoughts are identified, certain strategies are used to challenge and change them. Because CBT is a targeted, results-oriented therapy, it can be highly effective in a fairly short period of time.

Rather than focusing on your childhood and past events, CBT focuses on your present circumstances and how you view them. The goal is to find current irrational beliefs or fears and address them, replacing them with new and more accurate ways of thinking about your circumstances or your actions. This change in the way you view things, called cognitive restructuring, will ultimately lead to a change in the choices you make and the actions you take.

Practice and “homework” are often an integral part of CBT treatment, as you may be asked to pay attention to or even write down your thoughts about certain situations that happen in between sessions. These thoughts will then be evaluated in your therapy session to see how accurate and helpful they are. This concrete practice, along with the skills it teaches, is one of the reasons CBT works so well.

The Role of CBT in Addiction Treatment

Underlying thoughts and beliefs that have formed throughout your life play a pivotal role in addiction. As you grow up and experience trauma in various forms, you may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, relying on substances or other unhealthy behaviors to escape negative emotions or stressors rather than facing them head-on.

man in therapy session

Behavioral interventions in CBT work toward restructuring the unhelpful thought patterns that contribute to addictive behaviors, allowing you to learn to identify and challenge your distorted beliefs and replace them with healthier ones. CBT also focuses on modifying actions and reinforcing positive behaviors, as well as developing healthy skills for coping with triggers and cravings. Knowing how to handle stress, problem-solve, and communicate effectively are just a few of the skills CBT helps you develop to combat addictive behaviors and gradually change the way you approach everything life throws at you.

Behavioral therapy benefits also include increasing awareness of triggers and signs of potential relapse. Cognitive restructuring and coping skills lead to increased resilience against triggers, allowing you to face challenges in healthy ways when you once might have turned to substances to cope. CBT is a comprehensive approach to change, addressing the intricate combination of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions underlying addiction.


So how does this concept work for therapy in addiction recovery? Well, the focus of CBT is to show how our thoughts lead to certain behaviors, particularly conflicts between what we want to do, or know we should do, and what we actually do. Addiction is a perfect example of something we do that we don’t want to do, or that we know we shouldn’t do. We know it’s unhealthy and dangerous to abuse substances, and yet we still do it. Those behaviors often result in a range of negative consequences as well, which lead to even more regret. Still, a substance use disorder can be hard, if not nearly impossible, to stop on your own. In fact, detoxing alone can be dangerous and even fatal.

According to research from Psychiatric Clinics of North America, drugs and alcohol are powerful reinforcers of behavior. The effects they have, such as enhancing social experiences and numbing painful and negative emotions, keep bringing people back. CBT works systematically to reverse these reinforcing behaviors and replace them with behaviors that reinforce abstinence instead.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy looks at the inaccurate thoughts and associated negative feelings that lead to substance abuse. During CBT, you’ll focus on recording thoughts and feelings, as well as the things that trigger those thoughts and feelings. You’ll then look at the behaviors that proceed from them. Once you’ve identified the thoughts and feelings behind your unwanted behaviors, you can work to replace them with new, more accurate and positive thoughts and feelings.

Over time, you will be able to change your thoughts by intentionally looking at situations in more realistic ways that don’t lead to negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. CBT helps you to build the internal skills you need to train yourself out of repeating the deeply rooted behaviors that have driven your addiction.

Over time, you will be able to change your thoughts by intentionally looking at situations in more realistic ways that don’t lead to negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Other skills learned in CBT may include emotional regulation, interpersonal relationship skills, and organizational and problem-solving skills. All of these will help you along the road to recovery as you learn to cope with life without using substances. Not only will you learn how to handle situations where alcohol or drugs may be present, but you’ll also work to repair relationships that may have been harmed during your addiction. You’ll practice building social support and turning toward healthy activities to cope with negative experiences and emotions.

Integrating CBT into Comprehensive Treatment Plans

Integrating CBT in rehab with other therapeutic modalities enhances the effectiveness of addiction counseling, allowing for holistic, individualized treatment that meets each person’s specific needs. No two people are the same, so it’s important to address all aspects of addiction and the underlying trauma, thoughts, and behaviors that contribute to it.

CBT can work alongside other therapies like neurofeedback, group therapy, and EMDR to address different aspects of addiction and mental health. But there’s no reason to stop there—complementary supports like nutrition, mindfulness, yoga, and creative outlets widen and deepen the healing experience. Education is another important part of effective recovery: Learning coping skills in addiction treatment that you can take back to everyday life are key to lasting recovery. CBT’s structured approach provides practical skills you’ll need to cope with triggers, cravings, and stressors you will inevitably encounter. When integrated with other therapies and supports, you should leave treatment with all the tools you need when you return home.

A personalized approach to addiction also seeks to unearth and treat any co-occurring mental health disorders or trauma underlying addictive behaviors. Addiction affects every aspect of your life, so it makes sense that treatment would aim to improve every aspect of life. Holistic addiction recovery strategies are comprehensive in their approach, with the goal of deep and lasting recovery. CBT alone is an effective therapeutic tool, but it is particularly beneficial when it is at the core of a whole-person, integrated treatment program.


Cognitive behavioral therapists use specific cognitive therapy techniques for addiction recovery. The CBT exercises include the following: 


Thought records examine negative thoughts and look for evidence that disproves those thoughts. You will list evidence for and against your negative thought patterns. By critically evaluating this evidence, you can think more balanced and less harsh thoughts.


Behavioral experiments contrast positive and negative thoughts to see which is more effective in changing your behavior. Everyone is different; some respond better to self-kindness, while others respond better to self-criticism. This technique allows you to determine what works best for you to reduce negative thought patterns. 


For this technique, you would think of a memory that evokes a powerful negative feeling, trying hard to recognize every sight, sound, emotion, thought, and impulse associated with it. By frequently revisiting painful memories, you can reduce the anxiety caused by them over time. 


Creating a pleasant activity schedule involves making a weekly list of healthy and fun activities that break up your typical daily routine. The tasks should be simple and encourage positive emotions. Scheduling these activities will reduce negative thought patterns and prevent you from turning to drugs or alcohol. 

Anyone in addiction recovery can practice these cognitive behavioral therapy techniques outside your therapist’s office. These CBT exercises can also be done independently or in a group setting.


If you are struggling with addiction or mental health issues, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy combined with other treatments could be just what you need to find healing. CBT is a research-backed, time-tested therapy that not only transforms your thought patterns, but also gives you the education and practical skills that are essential to effective addiction treatment. And when done as part of a comprehensive treatment program, the effects are enhanced, and the likelihood of lasting recovery is increased.

The Meadows Malibu offers CBT in partnership with a range of other therapeutic interventions to put you on the path to recovery, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to get the help you need.