What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
A form of psychological treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy was developed in the 1960s and has become a staple treatment in addiction recovery programs. This form of therapy can also be employed to help people suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other psychiatric disorders, and relationship problems. Medical studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can improve these conditions and enhance individuals’ quality of life. Other studies reflect that this therapy may be just as effective as or even more effective than psychiatric medications or other types of therapies.
In short, there is substantial medical evidence to suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy works and can help people suffering from chronic health conditions like addiction to alcohol and drugs. This therapy is based on several core principles that guide its process. First, cognitive behavioral therapy operates on a premise that part of the psychiatric problems it’s used to treat are based in part on flawed patterns of thinking. For instance, a person may always jump to the worst case scenario in their minds, a way of thinking that can exacerbate anxiety.
Another core principle of cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the supposition that psychiatric problems are based, again, in part on unhelpful or negative behaviors. For instance, a person might have learned to drink after a stressful day at work based on what they saw their father or mother do. Drinking to cope with stress, of course, is a negative behavior, but it’s one that’s learned and difficult to overcome without treatment.
Finally, cognitive behavioral therapy operates under the presumption that psychiatric conditions can be improved when individuals learn better, more effective ways to cope with them. For instance, practicing yoga to alleviate anxiety is a better way to cope with the condition than drinking or turning to an illicit drug.
Because cognitive behavioral therapy is highly individualized, one person’s therapy session may look quite different from another’s. Therapists will base treatment sessions on each person’s unique circumstances, condition, and ways of coping. Cognitive behavioral therapy provides individuals with a new range of coping mechanisms that they can rely on to manage their condition and achieve recovery.
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How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
A person suffering from a chronic mental health condition like an addiction, eating disorder, or mood disorder invariably engages in harmful patterns of thinking and behavior. These actions and emotions are often illogical and worsen the individual’s situation. By learning to identify these patterns, people can develop strategies for stopping and changing them by replacing them with healthy ways of thinking and behaving. These changes don’t take place over time. The person must practice them until they, too, become a learned pattern of thinking and acting.
When using cognitive behavioral therapy, therapists employ different techniques to help clients learn and manage their addiction. Some clients may respond better to certain techniques than others. During sessions, therapists may initiate cognitive behavioral therapy in a one-on-one session or in a group, working together with many clients suffering from the same condition. During these therapy sessions, clients can expect:
- To receive feedback for their input / participation
- Learn how to relax the mind and body
- Identifying negative thoughts
- Discussing thoughts / memories that cause them fear or other negative emotions
- Take part in role-playing activities
- Engage in problem-solving activities
- Practicing how to assess potential solutions to problems
- Maintain a journal
- Learn about skills that promote positive behavioral transformation
- Practice the skills learned during therapy sessions
- Complete ‘homework’ suggested by the therapist
- Set goals
Because one of the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy is that our thoughts and emotions play an integral role in the direction our behaviors take, therapists focus heavily on examining thoughts and feelings in order to help participants assess and change them for the better.
Clients should also expect therapists to provide structured and highly focused therapy sessions. This can be helpful as it provides a framework for people who may be struggling with rebuilding the structure of their lives. Clients should also be prepared to make concerted efforts to analyze themselves in order to achieve the benefits this type of therapy can provide. Therapists will teach them techniques for self-assessment that they can use not only during therapy, but also in their everyday lives.
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction Treatment
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. During treatment sessions, therapists will help clients identify their habitual thinking patterns as well as their “automatic behaviors.” Many of their habitual and automatic behaviors are associated with their drinking or drug use, so they work together to identify those thoughts and behaviors in order to change them.
During treatment sessions, therapists will help clients confront the feelings and other triggers that led them to abuse drugs or alcohol. Often, traumatic feelings or negative feelings are difficult to confront, but the more time that clients address them, the less fearful they can become.
As part of the addiction therapy process, cognitive behavioral therapists rely on three important tenets:
During addiction therapy sessions, clients will spend time discussing and identifying the various circumstances that ‘fostered’ their abuse of alcohol or drugs. The recognition phase is essential. Unless clients can identify these negative circumstances, they will remain vulnerable to them. These circumstances might involve a peer group that engages in drug or alcohol abuse, a pattern of drinking after work, or using a drug to ‘medicate’ away a feeling like fear or anger.
Therapists will also help clients develop strategies for practicing avoidance. Clients will learn the importance of avoiding trigger situations. For instance, they will avoid bars or situations where drugs or alcohol are likely to be found.
Finally, clients will focus on coping with the negative thoughts and emotions that were involved in their alcohol or drug use. Learning to manage these emotions and partners of thinking in positive ways helps clients prevent relapse.
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Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A key benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy is that clients learn that they can control their thoughts and behaviors even though they can’t always control various aspects of the world they encounter. This type of therapy has many benefits that clients can experience, including:
- It helps people develop positive thinking patterns
- It works well in the short term
- It works to improve many types of negative behaviors
- It helps clients develop more mindfulness
- It helps clients cope with present and future life circumstances
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a medically sanctioned treatment for addiction. That means that it has been proven via medical research and testing to work.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques
During therapy sessions, practice a range of techniques that help clients achieve their recovery goals. Early on in therapy, clients can expect to make thought records. For instance, one of their triggers might be to drink to lessen the fear they have about life circumstances. They might drink or use drugs because they fear that they’ll lose their job or their home. Some fears are realistic, but ‘catastrophizing’ is an unhealthy pattern of thinking. Abusing drugs or alcohol to alleviate fear isn’t a rational way to improve life circumstances or eliminate any type of real threat. So, clients will focus on how to identify their negative emotions and find healthy ways to change or cope with them.
Therapists encourage clients to do homework, which may involve positive activities. Between sessions, a therapist might require a client to do several positive activities that support mindfulness or their sober living goals. It might be attending a yoga class, journaling about their goals, or reading. In this way, therapists rely on many “hands-on” techniques designed to help clients improve the way they think and behave routinely.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Resurgence Behavioral Health
Resurgence Behavioral Health offers cognitive behavioral therapy as a cornerstone of our treatment offerings. This form of therapy can have a transformative effect on people as they work to manage various types of mental health conditions including substance addiction, social phobia, post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and more.
Many people have developed ways of thinking and behaving that are distorted–that harm us and our relationships in some way. Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses these distortions head on. Clients learn that they can not only change a negative mindset, but they can learn the techniques needed to make that change. They learn how to avoid jumping to conclusions–which are frequently the wrong conclusions when jumped to while experiencing anger, fear, or sadness. With the help of their therapist, they can learn to stop catastrophizing or focusing on the worst aspects of situations. As they develop these new coping skills, they learn to manage their triggers and, ultimately, their addiction or other mental health condition.
If you are in the throes of an addiction or other mental health disturbance, you can rely on Resurgence for our professional and empathetic care. Our techniques are tried and true. They can help you transform and improve your life and overall well-being. Call or visit us to learn more.