Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is a type of talk therapy used to treat individuals in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. CBT focuses on how a person’s behaviors and feelings are influenced by their thoughts.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based, goal-oriented, short-term form of psychotherapy that is based on the idea that how a person feels (emotion), acts (behavior), and thinks (cognition) all interact together. Simply put, a person’s thoughts determine their behavior and feelings. The goal of CBT is to change the person’s patterns of behavior and thinking that are contributing to their emotional problems. When cognitive behavioral therapy is used as part of the treatment for a substance use disorder, it helps the person understand and cope with the thought patterns behind their addictive behaviors.
The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Each person struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs has a unique set of circumstances that caused them to become addicted. It is essential to identify and treat the issues that caused their drug abuse and addiction. Doing this helps to reduce self-destructive behaviors and relapse triggers.
According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, cognitive behavioral therapy has numerous benefits when used in addiction recovery. It helps the person confront, cope with, and heal from past trauma. They learn how to cope with loss or grief, deal with a chronic medical illness, or resolve problems in their relationships. CBT helps the person learn to handle emotions in a healthier way. Additional benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy include:
- Strengthening a person’s communication skills
- Building coping skills to reduce stress and its impact
- Treating a mental illness when medication is not an option
- Alleviating or reducing certain mental illness symptoms
- Preventing a relapse of those symptoms
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction Treatment
During CBT the addicted person learns that their negative harmful emotions and actions are not rational or logical. They learn that their behaviors and feelings are the results of past experiences. As they work with the cognitive behavioral therapist, they learn to identify their negative automatic thoughts. The therapist helps the person to dismantle those thoughts that are based on misconceptions and impulse–any thoughts that come from fear and self-doubt. Many times, people use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate the pain caused by these negative feelings and thoughts.
What to Expect in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
During the first session, the therapist will gather information and talk about what you are going to work on. They will ask questions to get a better understanding of the situation. As you progress through the sessions, you will be encouraged to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and what is troubling you. If you find it difficult to discuss your feelings, your therapist will help you gain confidence and feel comfortable.
Typically, cognitive behavioral therapy includes four steps.
- Identifying troubling conditions or situations in your life, such as grief, anger, divorce, medical conditions, or mental health concerns. You will work with your therapist to decide which problems and goals to focus on.
- Becoming aware of your emotions, thoughts, and beliefs about the problems you identified. Your therapist may ask you to share your interpretation of the situation and what it means, listen to your own self-talk (what you tell yourself) about the experience, and examine your beliefs about events, other people, and yourself. You may be asked to keep a journal of your thoughts.
- Identifying inaccurate or negative thinking. You may be asked to pay attention to your emotional, behavioral, and physical responses in different situations. Doing this may help you to identify and understand patterns of behaviors and thinking that are adding to your problem.
- Reshaping inaccurate or negative thoughts. Your therapist will have you ask yourself if the way you see the situation is based on an inaccurate perception of the situation or on fact. With time and practice, you will be able to change your negative thought patterns to helpful, positive ones.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great benefit to those in addiction recovery. It provides them with the power and skills to cope with situations in life in healthy ways. It makes them feel better about themselves and their life.
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. One of our caring professionals will answer your questions and help you get started on your journey to recovery and living a clean and sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.