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Computer-Delivered CBT Helps Addicts

Program Delivers Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Training


Updated November 12, 2013

Computer Training

Computer Keyboard and Coffee Cup

A computer-assisted program designed to teach drug and alcohol abusers skills to change their behavior has been shown to help them remain abstinent significantly longer than others who received traditional counseling only.

Yale University researchers studied 77 people who sought treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. The participants were given either traditional counseling or computer-assisted training as well as traditional counseling. The computer training was based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches drug abusers to recognize situations in which they are most likely to use drugs and to avoid these and other situations. Cognitive behavior therapy is mostly used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other mental disorders.

In the Yale study, those who received the computer-assisted training had significantly fewer positive drug tests at the end of the study than those who did not receive the training.

Saves Counselors Time and Training

Kathleen M. Carroll, professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study, believes the computer-assisted program can be valuable because cognitive-behavioral therapy is not widely available for the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse.

Many counselors lack the time or training to implement cognitive behavioral therapy for their patients, Carroll said, therefore the computer software program her team developed can help them supplement their traditional counseling.

Skills to Resist Drug Use

The program utilizes text, audio and video examples designed to help patients learn new ways of avoiding the use of drugs, as well as changing other problem behaviors. Users of the program see short videos showing situations in which it is usually difficult to resist drug use -- such as being offered drugs by a dealer.

The program presents different strategies of avoiding drug use and shows movies of people using those skills.

"We think this is a very exciting way of reaching more people who may have substance use problems and providing a means of helping them learn effective ways to change their behavior," Carroll said in a news release.

Carroll, Kathleen M., et. al. "Computer-Assisted Delivery of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Addiction: A Randomized Trial of CBT4CBT" American Journal of Psychiatry. 1 May 2008

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