Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Quit Smoking

A recent study of people who are trying to quit smoking shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help reduce cigarette cravings. Overcoming cravings is an essential part of successful addiction therapy, as the craving to pick up another cigarette may, in the short term, overpower the rational reasons for quitting. Helping people overcome cravings by “retraining” the brain has the potential to help people quit smoking more effectively. The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, took brain scans of people who’d been undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy with the goal of smoking cessation. The scans showed interesting behavior in two areas of the brain.

One area, known as the prefrontal cortex, helps a person control their emotions (among other things). This part was more active in people who’d undergone the smoking therapy. A second area, called the striatum, is related to reward-seeking and craving. This area was less active in people who’d been having therapy. In addition, people who’d been undergoing therapy also reported that their cravings were less intense.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a common form of therapy used to help people overcome a number of issues, including addiction and substance abuse. In the case of this particular study, therapists worked with their clients specifically on cognitive strategies to help reduce cravings. One example would be learning to focus on smoking’s long-term consequences. This type of thinking helps frame cigarettes in a different context. And as the brain scans showed, the therapy had actual physical impact on the way the brain worked, which had direct impact on the severity of cravings people experienced. The study’s leaders, along with the National Institute of Drug Abuse, hope that similar cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can be used to help people overcome addiction to other substances in the future.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • emily

    emily

    August 4th, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    my dad is just addicted to cigarettes and he just can’t seem to quite.and if therapy can help him and us to stop this addiction of his then i guess that would be the best way ahead to go about the problem that is ruining all his relationships because he keeps having arguments with us whenever we ask him to quit smoking.

  • Jerrald

    Jerrald

    August 4th, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    hmm…sounds like therapy has the solutions for most of our problems.and franky i’m all for it because I have seen therapy work for my brother more than any pharma medication.what is needed is wider application of therapy and encouragement given to people to go in for therapy as a wonderful alternative to pharma medication.

  • Tim Hoare

    Tim Hoare

    August 4th, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    Anything that help one to quit is beneficial.
    Emily, if all else fails, buy your dad an electronic cigarette starter kit.

  • Janice

    Janice

    August 5th, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    Sure that this is wonderful treatment for smokers. I have a friend who recently lost her life to lung cancer and she had tried everything under the sun to stop smoking but I know that her doctors never recommended this kind of therapy for her. It makes me sad to know that maybe she could have benefitted from cbt but was never given a push in that direction but it does make me happy to know that maybe now there are other smokers who could benefit from this and hopefully live a longer and healthier life than what my dear friend lived.

  • Jenn

    Jenn

    August 5th, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    I really do believe therapy can help with lasting change, especially when compared to any sort of pharmaceutical designed to “replace” whatever it is we are missing.

    @Jerrald – I completely agree with you!

  • Becca

    Becca

    August 5th, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    Wow I never thought about therapy for stopping smoking… I’ve heard about hypnosis before but I’ll have to look more into this. anything to help quit!

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