Cognitive Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol and Drug Use Disorders: Through the Stage Model and Back Again

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Abstract

Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches have among the highest level of empirical support for the treatment of drug and alcohol use disorders. As Psychology of Addictive Behaviors marks its 30th anniversary, we review the evolution of CBT for the addictions through the lens of the Stage Model of Behavioral Therapies Development. The large evidence base from Stage II randomized clinical trials indicates a modest effect size with evidence of relatively durable effects, but limited diffusion in clinical practice, as is the case for most empirically validated approaches for mental health and addictive disorders. Technology may provide a means for CBT interventions to circumvent the “implementation cliff” in Stages III–V by offering a flexible, low-cost, standardized means of disseminating CBT in a range of novel settings and populations. Moreover, returning to Stage I to reconnect clinical applications of CBT to recent developments in cognitive science and neuroscience holds great promise for accelerating understanding of mechanisms of action. It is critical that CBT not be considered as a static intervention, but rather 1 that constantly evolves and is refined through the stage model until the field achieves a maximally powerful intervention that addresses core features of the addictions.

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