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View the Treatment Process Up Close

Let's see what it is like to go through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Substance Use Disorders treatment!

What Will Treatment Be Like?

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders (CBT-SUD), a trained therapist will work with you to help you to (1) make changes in your use of alcohol and/or other drugs, (2) better manage cravings and urges, and (3) develop skills for refusing substances. Your therapist will also teach you proven skills to address problems related to your substance use. This may include skills for managing your mood, improving communication, solving problems, or increasing social support. The specific skills you focus on will be based on your personal situation and what is important to you.

At the start of treatment, you'll create treatment goals that are specific to you. Then, you and your therapist will work together as a team to help you achieve your goals. Throughout treatment, your therapist will ask you for feedback to make sure things are headed in the right direction. Treatment lasts about 12 sessions, though you can start with just a few sessions to try it out.

Treatment Up Close: Frank's Journey

Click on this video to see how CBT-SUD treatment turned out for Frank.

Treatment Success: Laura's Story

Read about what treatment looked like for Laura by clicking on the pages of this e-book. Laura's story is based on the experiences of Veterans with substance use problems that have decided to give CBT-SUD treatment a try. See if you can spot the treatment steps in Laura's story!

Laura's Story


Laura is a 33-year-old Veteran who works at a local newspaper. She's been using alcohol to help with some of the difficult feelings she's had since returning from Afghanistan 8 years ago. Since separating from her boyfriend recently, her drinking has increased. Laura's sister has been concerned since Laura received a DUI, and she has been having problems keeping up with work assignments. Laura's sister suggested she check out the Treatment Works for Vets website, which includes information about a proven treatment (CBT for Substance Use Disorders) that seemed like it could be helpful to Laura. To keep peace with her sister, Laura agreed to talk with a therapist, but she didn't really buy into the idea of treatment.

Session 1-2 (Getting Started)

Laura's therapist (Wendy) spent time getting to know Laura. Although Laura wasn't big on treatment, she liked having someone to talk to who didn't judge her. She also learned more about how drinking was affecting her life. Wendy told Laura about different treatment options she could consider and how they might help. Laura liked that CBT for Substance Use Disorders was effective with many Veterans. She also liked that it wasn't just about drinking, but that it could help her learn proven skills to better deal with difficult emotions and solve problems. She decided to give it a try. Together, Laura and Wendy came up with a list of goals that Laura wanted to achieve in treatment.

Sessions 3-4 (Manage Urges and Cravings)

Laura and Wendy uncovered triggers to Laura's drinking. She drank most when she thought about her ex-boyfriend and when she was in certain social situations. She shared that she felt uncomfortable around her co-workers at Happy Hour and other events outside of work. Drinking made it easier for her to talk with them. Laura and Wendy spent some time identifying other situations in which Laura was most likely to drink. Laura learned how to monitor and cope with urges to drink when she felt them. She developed a Coping Plan that included skills she could use to manage urges to drink.

Sessions 5-6 (Improve Communication Skills)

Laura often had a hard time turning down alcohol in social situations. To help with this, Wendy taught her assertive communication skills. Laura learned how assertive communication is different from passive and aggressive styles of communication, which she had often used before. Laura practiced assertive communication with Wendy. This made her feel more confident. Laura then practiced these skills while out with her co-workers. As she did so, she found it was easier to turn down drinks. Laura also learned effective listening skills, which helped her better connect with others in her life.

Sessions 7-9 (Learn to Better Manage Mood)

Wendy helped Laura learn how negative emotions she felt were connected to negative thoughts she had, which then affected how she acted or behaved in situations. Wendy taught Laura how to catch negative or extreme thoughts when she has them and to see how they affected how she felt and then acted. Laura noticed that she often had certain thoughts that got her down, which often led to her drinking. Once Laura was able to catch her negative thoughts, Wendy helped her learn how to change them. Laura noticed that changing her thinking led to her feeling better and to drinking less!

Sessions 10-11 (Improve Social Support)

At the start of treatment, Laura hadn't been getting out much or spending time with other people. She used to enjoy running and going to the gym with friends, but she'd been feeling so badly she stopped doing these things. Wendy worked with Laura to help her again do these and other things that made her feel good. At first, Laura didn't feel like doing much or reaching out to others. However, she trusted Wendy and stuck with it. A couple of weeks later, Laura found she liked reconnecting with old friends. It also felt good to her to be active and accomplish things again. Laura noticed her mood improved - and she felt better about herself.

Session 12 (Final Session)

By the end of treatment, Laura had stopped drinking. The skills she learned helped her cope with cravings and situations that before led her to drink. She also felt better about things. And she noticed she was more productive at work - she hadn't missed a deadline in 6 weeks! Her sister commented on the difference she saw in her "little sis'". Most encouraging to Laura was that she actually started dating again. Though she's yet to meet Mr. Right, she's on her way! Laura thanked Wendy for helping her gain the skills and confidence to move forward in her life.


Now that we've learned about CBT for Substance Use Disorders, let's explore what goals you may have for treatment.

  1. Learn about Proven Treatment You are here
  2. View the Treatment Process Up Close You are here
  3. Explore Your Goals You are here
  4. Find Treatment You are here

Explore your goals

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Questions or problems? Contact Rocky Mountain MIRECC.


Contact Information


Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC (RMR VAMC)
1700 N Wheeling St, BLDG A2
Aurora, CO 80045


VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
500 Foothill DR
Salt Lake City, UT 84148
801-582-1565 x2821