Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most rigorously researched and evidence-based treatment methods for dealing with varying mental health disorders. While certainly not the only behavioral therapy used in treatment, it is hands down one of the most effective.
CBT is a therapeutic style that emphasizes how cognitive changes can create behavioral and emotional changes. CBT for addiction helps clients change their thought patterns surrounding substance use, allowing them to better handle cravings and find alternative behaviors in which to engage.
CBT therapy began in the 1960s when it was created by renowned psychologist Aaron Beck. Originally developed as a treatment for depression, the success of CBT led it to be quickly applied to the treatment of anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, and addiction as well.
When therapists discuss the gold standard of treatment for psychotherapy, they often bring up CBT, meaning they believe it to be the most effective talk therapy approach to treat a broad range of mental illnesses. As such, it is one of the most common therapy styles in current practice.
Dialectical behavioral therapy is a more recent therapeutic style based on cognitive-behavioral therapy. DBT techniques overlap with CBT but have a few unique twists of their own. Some DBT techniques that are not found in standard CBT include:
DBT has been particularly effective at helping treat people with borderline personality disorder but is otherwise very comparable in effectiveness to CBT.
Understanding CBT techniques first requires an understanding of a core idea present throughout the therapy. That idea is that thoughts influence feelings and feelings influence behavior, which in turn influences thoughts. This cycle is a core tenet of CBT practices.
This cyclical pattern can keep people feeling, acting, and thinking in a negative way but can also be used to make positive changes in the future. CBT interventions have a few key goals, including:
A client and a CBT therapy provider can work toward these goals together to help the client build a healthier life.
Cognitive distortions refer to specific styles of thinking that lead people to experience or act out on negative feelings and behaviors. There are ten main cognitive distortions:
These patterns of thinking keep people from achieving recovery and living to their fullest potential.
CBT uses several different techniques to help people overcome cognitive distortions. One of the most common CBT techniques is known as reframing. After a client has identified a negative thought pattern, their therapist may ask them to reframe the thought in a way that doesn’t fall into a cognitive distortion category.
For example, somebody who is employing the “mind-reading” distortion may think to themselves: “They hardly spoke to me all night. They must think that I’m such a jerk.”
One way to reframe this thought could be: “They hardly spoke to anyone all night. I wonder if something is bothering them?” This way of reframing can help minimize symptoms of mental disorders.
CBT therapy is hard work and has several goals. Through meeting with your therapist and practicing the techniques you’ve learned in therapy, you will also be working to:
Remember that the techniques used in CBT therapy sessions take time to sink in. You are learning a new skill that requires practice and dedication to achieve mastery. It’s okay if techniques don’t work right away.
CBT is used to treat a variety of different mental health conditions. Just a few disorders that can benefit from cognitive therapy include:
Often, certain conditions require specialized CBT, meaning the techniques are changed somewhat to cater to specific disorders. Trauma-focused CBT interventions are one example. In trauma-focused CBT, extra care is taken to not risk re-traumatization for clients, and certain staple practices of CBT are removed altogether.
Like so many other mental disorders, addiction has problematic thoughts, behaviors, and feelings that are all intertwined. Addiction therapy using CBT can help people break the destructive thought patterns that keep them returning to substance use. It also teaches them how to explore alternative ways of thinking that facilitate their recovery.
But the best case for using CBT for addiction is that decades of research have shown that it works. Across nearly every type of substance abuse, researchers have found that CBT therapy is effective at helping clients to cut down or stop using altogether. Further still, cognitive therapy can be used to treat clients with co-occurring mental health disorders, who often have a higher risk of relapse if their co-occurring disorder is left untreated.
Of course, the best approach for treating addiction is to use a multifaceted strategy. Not every treatment works for everyone, so it’s often best to provide a wide variety of potential treatment options. Other evidence-based strategies for helping people overcome substance use disorders include:
Overcoming a substance use disorder is never easy, but it is absolutely possible, provided you get the help you need at a professional addiction treatment center. CBT is a great opportunity to reframe the unhealthy thoughts in your mind.
At Genesis Recovery, we will provide you or your loved one with the best therapists and support systems available, enabling you to regain autonomy over your life and experience wellness.