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There have been many modalities developed for the treatment of addiction and mental illness, one of high prevalence is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. CBT has gained widespread popularity for its ease of implementation and efficacy. Clinicians and therapists in both inpatient and outpatient settings adopt CBT’s principles for use with their patients. In this post we will discuss where CBT came from, how it works, the goals of using CBT and its impact on addiction treatment.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of behavioral therapy and a well-established treatment intervention for people suffering from a wide range of mental health disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on cognition, or how your thoughts can influence your mood – not vice-versa. CBT is a goal-oriented type of therapy that addresses cognitive issues such as dysfunctional automatic thoughts, maladaptive thinking (or cognitive distortions), and underlying core beliefs. Most therapists who use CBT customize the therapy to the specific needs of each patient.

Cognitive behavioral therapy was developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist Aaron Beck. CBT originated when Beck’s perspective changed on mental health conditions from viewing depression and anxiety as mood disorders to viewing these conditions as cognitive disorders. For example, if a CBT patient’s automatic interpretation of a situation is seen through a negative lens of cognition (thoughts and beliefs), then it is likely to impact their mood negatively. Maladaptive thinking or cognitive distortions, such as overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, or personalizing situations, can cause errors in logic and misguided conclusions, sometimes resulting in or worsening of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

Underlying core beliefs can shape someone’s life and be the foundation for automatic thinking. Someone’s ways of thinking and perceiving can undoubtedly shape the way that they interpret the world around them (and their role in it). Beck believed that dysfunctional, automatic thinking, even if it exaggerated or distorted, plays a significant role in mental and behavioral disorders. The ultimate goal of CBT is to address these negative patterns of thinking and subsequent behaviors to create positive change in a person’s life for the better.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is typically delivered to a client via one on one sessions with a therapist or in group settings facilitated with a CBT trained and certified practitioner. While there are many approaches to CBT the primary concepts include:

Cognitive Restructuring: One of the key components of CBT is cognitive restructuring, which involves identifying and challenging irrational or negative thoughts. For example, a person with social anxiety may have the belief that everyone is judging them negatively in social situations. Through CBT, they can learn to challenge this belief by examining evidence that supports or refutes it, leading to a more balanced and realistic perspective.

Behavioral Experiments: CBT also incorporates behavioral techniques to help individuals test out new ways of thinking and behaving. For instance, someone with depression may have the belief that they are incapable of enjoying activities they used to love. A CBT therapist may encourage them to engage in small, pleasurable activities to challenge this belief and demonstrate that they are still capable of experiencing joy.

Skill Building: CBT teaches individuals practical skills to manage their emotions and behaviors. These skills may include relaxation techniques, problem-solving strategies, and communication skills. By learning and practicing these skills, individuals can improve their ability to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and communicate effectively with others.

Homework Assignments: In CBT, clients are often given homework assignments to practice the skills and techniques they learn in therapy sessions. This helps reinforce learning and encourages clients to apply what they have learned in real-life situations. For example, a person with panic disorder may be asked to practice relaxation techniques when they feel anxious outside of therapy sessions.

Goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their emotional distress. The goals of CBT can be summarized as follows:

Identify and Challenge Negative Thoughts: One of the primary goals of CBT is to help individuals become aware of their negative or irrational thoughts and beliefs. By identifying these thought patterns, individuals can learn to challenge their validity and replace them with more realistic and positive thoughts.

Develop Coping Strategies: CBT aims to equip individuals with practical skills and coping strategies to manage their emotions and behaviors more effectively. This may include relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, and communication strategies to help individuals respond to challenging situations in a healthier way.

Change Maladaptive Behaviors: CBT helps individuals recognize and modify behaviors that contribute to their distress. By addressing harmful behaviors and replacing them with more adaptive ones, individuals can break the cycle of negative thoughts and emotions.

Build Self-Efficacy: CBT aims to empower individuals to take control of their thoughts and behaviors. By providing individuals with tools and techniques to manage their mental health, CBT helps build self-confidence and self-efficacy in dealing with stressors and challenges.

Prevent Relapse: Another goal of CBT is to provide individuals with the skills and strategies to prevent relapse of their mental health symptoms. By teaching individuals how to recognize early warning signs and implement coping techniques, CBT helps individuals maintain their progress over the long term.

Overall, the goals of cognitive behavioral therapy are to help individuals develop a more balanced and adaptive way of thinking, improve their emotional regulation, and enhance their overall well-being. By addressing the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, CBT aims to empower individuals to make positive changes in their lives and achieve lasting improvements in their mental health.

Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be especially effective as a treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). Some of the primary goals of CBT are to help bring awareness to and correct maladaptive behavioral patterns, enhance motivation for change, and develop healthy coping skills, all of which can be beneficial in substance use treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy treatment models are helpful in relapse prevention since CBT targets cognitive and environmental triggers for substance use and promotes the development of alternative coping skills.

The use of healthier coping strategies is vital to recovery from substance use disorders and CBT focuses on several elements such as psychoeducation, skills training, and behavioral strategies to avoid triggers. CBT’s directives of setting goals, developing social supports, learning effective communication skills and utilizing various forms of exercise are examples of healthy coping strategies often used in addiction treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse issue or mental illness, TRUE is here to help. Our comprehensive program offerings have proven effective in helping people to recovery from addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues. Give us a call today and get started on the path of long-term successful recovery.