CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a form of therapy proven effective for treating a range of conditions.
If you’re suffering with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, CBT is proven effective, either in isolation or alongside medication-assisted treatment. CBT can also be beneficial for treating depression, severe mental illness, eating disorders, and relationship problems.
Today, we’ll be touching on the three core components of CBT, as well as examining how this therapy works and how it can be applied to substance abuse treatment.
To get started, some CBT basics.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavior therapy differs from many psychological treatments in that advances has been made based both on research and clinical practice. There is a deep body of evidence proving the effectiveness of CBT for producing meaningful change.
CBT is based on several foundational principles:
- Psychological problems are based, at least partly, on unhelpful, faulty thinking
- Psychological problems are based, at least partly, on learned and unhelpful patterns of behavior
- You can find superior ways of coping with psychological problems, reduce your symptoms, and become more effective in your life
The crux of CBT treatment involves learning to change the thinking patterns that lead to negative outcomes.
You’ll explore how to better recognize when distorted thinking could lead to problematic behaviors. You will learn how to more effectively evaluate your thoughts based on reality rather than negative thinking.
You can also expect to develop a stronger understanding of how others behave, and what motivates them.
CBT will help you sharpen your problem-solving skills, and you’ll become more confident in your own abilities, as well as more confident of overcoming obstacles and avoiding the triggers for poor behaviors like substance abuse.
When you undertake a course of CBT, you will also focus on changing patterns of poor behavior. You may use any or all of the following strategies to achieve this:
- Facing up to your fears rather than avoiding them
- Preparing for problematic interactions with others by role-playing
- Learning various techniques for relaxing your body and mind
Underpinning the work you carry out with your therapist, you’ll ultimately learn the skills you need to become your own therapist.
You’ll need to put in plenty of work when following a course of CBT sessions. As well as performing a range of exercises in your sessions, you can expect homework assignments given you the chance to implement exercises in real-world settings.
CBT places a sharp focus on what’s happening in your life right now rather than what brought you to the stage of addiction to drink or drugs, or whatever else led you to engage with cognitive behavior therapy. You’ll be looking to love forward rather than getting hung up on the past, something that occurs with some other therapies.
With that basic definition of CBT sketched in, what’s the real purpose of engaging with CBT?
Cognitive behavior therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can be used to treat a broad spread of issues and conditions. CBT typically calls for fewer sessions than other types of therapy, while delivering similar (or often superior) results.
CBT can help in all of the following circumstances:
- Managing the symptoms associated with mental illness
- Preventing relapse with mental illness
- Treating mental illness where medication has been ineffective
- Learning coping techniques to help you negotiate life’s normal stressors
- Coping with illness
- Working through grief or loss
- Resolving relationship conflicts
- Improving your communication skills
- Learning to better manage emotions
- Overcoming emotional trauma triggered by violence or abuse
- Managing chronic symptoms of physical illness
The following mental health conditions have been proven to improve with cognitive behavioral therapy:
- Anxiety disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders
- Sexual disorders
The Three Main Components of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy has three broad components:
- Cognitive therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Mindfulness-focused therapy
1) Cognitive therapy
With cognitive therapy, the main focus is the way though patterns are responsible for triggering negative patterns of behavior and emotions.
You’ll learn to understand how your flawed thinking can lead to these negative emotional states.
The key intervention in this component of CBT is identifying these distorted and counterproductive patterns, and then responding based on thinking that’s based firmly in reality. Resultantly, you should experience fewer emotional problems.
This process is referred to as cognitive restructuring.
2) Behavioral therapy
With behavioral therapy, the focus shifts to the role of behavior as more problematic than thinking patterns.
You’ll identify problems behaviors and learn how to replace them with healthier alternatives (going to the gym rather than the bar, for instance).
To implement these changes, you might expose yourself to stimuli you previously avoided, while increasing rewarding behavior.
Combining both of these components is the most effective approach.
3) Mindfulness-focused therapy
Mindfulness is a technique from Theravada Buddhism also used in meditation.
The aim of mindfulness is simple: focus fully on the task at hand without judgment attached.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction Treatment
When CBT is delivered in combination with medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder, the results are usually favorable.
CBT will equip you with the sound problem-solving skills you need to negotiate stressful life situations without reaching for drink or drugs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be delivered one-on-one, in a group setting with other people with similar issues, or with your family members if appropriate. It is also possible to follow some CBT courses using online resources.
When you first meet with a therapist, they’ll take some time to find out about your emotional health, both past and present. You’ll establish which concerns you want to work on, and you’ll also discuss the issue of medications.
Once you start CBT sessions, you’ll be encouraged to open up regarding your thoughts, your feelings, and anything that’s weighing you down. As you proceed, you should feel increasingly comfortable with your therapist.
CBT is goal-oriented with a sharp focus on very specific problems. Delivery will depend on your circumstances.
This is a short-term therapy that usually lasts anywhere from 5 sessions to 20 sessions.
Benefits of CBT
- Can be completed in a short space of time
- Often works when medication alone has failed
- Can be beneficial when other therapies have been ineffective
- The therapy is highly structured and lends well to different delivery methods
- You can undertake CBT online to supplement therapy
Drawbacks of CBT
- CBT may not work if you have more complicated mental health needs
- The therapy is not ideal for some people with learning difficulties
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is time-consuming
- You may find confronting your anxieties and facing up to your emotions is uncomfortable at times
- CBT will only focus on your capacity to change yourself without addressing wider issues
- There is no focus on the underlying causes of your thoughts and behaviors
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at The District Recovery Community
You’ll work closely with a therapist to formulate an individualized plan. You’ll treat your substance use disorder along with any co-occurring mental health condition using CBT to help.
By the end of your course of treatment, you’ll be better placed to detect the negative emotions that typically lead you to behave poorly. Equipped with sound and healthy coping mechanisms, you’ll also be well positioned to move seamlessly onto sustained sobriety and long-term recovery.
To get things started, take the first important step by calling the friendly TDRC team today at 844.287.8506.