What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common form of “talk therapy” that probes the conflicts in your behavior between what you want to do and what you actually do. An example of this is addiction. You don’t want to be addicted, yet you behave in ways that keep your drug and alcohol dependence intact. And although people with addictions regret that behavior, it can be difficult to stop repeating it. Sometimes the person doesn’t even know why.

CBT is based on the principles of behaviorism, which is concerned with how people’s behaviors can be controlled or changed and theories of cognition, which focus on understanding how people think, feel, and understand the world. It is an effective goal-oriented and short-term treatment for addiction and mental health disorders that takes a matter-of-fact approach to solve problems.

patient undergoing Cognitive Behavior Therapy with licensed mental health professional

Goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on readjusting the patterns of thinking or behavior that led to the patient’s difficulties. The mental health professional does this by exploring the patient’s thoughts, images, beliefs, attitudes, and relationships. Once you have identified the relationship between your problems, behavior, and thoughts, you can begin to learn healthy ways to cope and manage your thoughts and emotions during and after mental health and substance abuse treatment.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help With Addiction?

As mentioned, addiction is an example of a behavior pattern that goes against what the person in that situation wants to do. People trying to overcome addictive behaviors often say they want to change that behavior or any other behaviors that are causing problems, but it is very difficult to do so.

Using the cognitive behavioral therapy approach, addictive behaviors are the result of inaccurate thoughts and consequential negative feelings. This includes behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse, gambling problems, obsessive compulsive disorder, mood disorders, and other forms of excessive harmful behavior,

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy explains this occurrence by illustrating the way that people’s thoughts and emotions interact. Psychologists understand that many of us have thoughts that are based on beliefs that are untrue, unrealistic, or impossible to accomplish. These thoughts then cause negative feelings that feed anxiety, depression, mental health issues and substance use disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sessions start by recording thoughts, and correlating feelings, along with the events that trigger them, and the behaviors that result. We can change the automatic processes that hinder efforts to change behaviors. By examining patterns of thoughts and feelings that we frequently experience, we can begin to change those thoughts.

We change those thoughts by looking at situations in more realistic ways that don’t automatically lead to negative emotions and harmful behaviors. By rewarding ourselves for healthier behaviors, over time, healthier behaviors become associated with positive emotions and become automatic.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Basics

Cognitive Behavioral therapists will teach you how to make changes you can put into practice immediately. These are coping skills you can use for the rest of your life. Depending on your goals, there are several ways to approach Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Whatever method your therapist takes, your therapy sessions will include:

  • Identifying mental health conditions or substance abuse problems in your everyday life.
  • Becoming aware of nonproductive thought patterns and how they affect your life.
  • Identifying negative thinking and reframing it in a way that changes how you feel.
  • Learning and practicing healthy coping mechanisms, acquiring new skills and new behaviors.

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9 Strategies of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

After talking to you and learning more about your issues, your therapist will decide which CBT strategies would be the best for you. Techniques most often used in cognitive behavior therapy include these 9 strategies:

Cognitive distortions make it necessary to take an honest look at negative thought patterns. You may tend to think in general terms and assume the worst will happen or place too much importance on minor details. This kind of thinking can affect what you do and can result in maladaptive behavioral patterns such as drug or alcohol use.

Your Cognitive Behavioral Therapy professional will ask you about your thought process in different situations so you can identify negative patterns. After you see problematic thoughts and become aware of them, you can learn to reframe those thoughts, so they are more positive and productive.

An example might be: “I can’t quit using drugs because I’m just a loser at everything” can become “Addiction is a disorder, and I can learn ways to overcome addiction, just like I have learned other things.”

During a guided discovery in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the therapist will familiarize themselves with your viewpoint. They’ll ask questions meant to challenge your beliefs and expand your thinking. You might be asked to give evidence that supports your belief and evidence that doesn’t.

Through this Cognitive Behavior Therapy process, you will learn to see things from different sides, particularly ones you may not have even considered before. This helps guide you to choose a more helpful path to deal with your addiction or mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorder.

Exposure therapy in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be used to challenge fears and phobias. Those who have common co-occurring disorders such as addiction and post traumatic stress disorder will benefit the greatest from this. Your therapist will slowly expose you to the things that prompt fear or anxiety while guiding you on how to cope with them at the moment. This may be done in small steps. Eventually, exposure therapy can make you feel less anxious and more confident in your ability to cope.

Writing is a common way to get in touch with your own thoughts and is a part of cognitive behavioral therapy. This is particularly helpful for those who experience addiction and generalized anxiety disorder. Your therapist might ask you to list negative thoughts and positive thoughts that come to you between therapy sessions.

Another writing assignment would be to keep track of new thoughts and new behaviors you’ve put into practice since the last session. Putting it in writing can help you understand how far you’ve come in battling addiction and mental health conditions.

There might be an activity you tend to put off or avoid due to fear or anxiety. Putting it on your calendar can help. For example, those who have eating disorders because of drug addiction can put a reminder about eating. Eating healthy will help in their road to addiction recovery. Once the pressure of decision-making is gone, you are more likely to follow through. Activity scheduling like this can help establish good habits and provide substantial opportunities to practice what you learned.

Behavioral experiments in cognitive behavioral therapy are usually used for mental health disorders that involve “catastrophic thinking.” Catastrophic thinking is when you always assume that the worst thing will happen in any situation and exaggerate the problems you face.

Before beginning a task that usually triggers your anxiety disorders, you will be asked to predict what will happen. Later on in your therapy sessions, you will talk with your therapist about whether your prediction was correct. Over time, you’ll realize that the predicted catastrophe is really not very likely to occur. You’ll start with low-anxiety tasks and build from there.

In cognitive behavioral therapy, you will learn practical coping skills to help you lower stress and increase your sense of control. This is helpful when dealing with phobias, PTSD, and other stressors. You will learn some progressive relaxation techniques such as:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Imagery

Role-playing as part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you work through different behaviors in difficult situations. Playing out possible storylines can lessen fear and is used for:

  • Improving problem-solving skills
  • Becoming familiar and confident in certain situations
  • Practicing social skills
  • Assertiveness training
  • Developing communication skills

This concerns taking tasks that appear to be overwhelming and breaking them into smaller, more achievable parts. Each successive part builds upon the previous so you gain confidence and improve your mental health condition as you go, piece by piece.

Verify Your Insurance

If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.

Verify Your Insurance

If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Mental Health Disorders

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective therapeutic approach for addressing various mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought and behavior patterns that contribute to these mental health conditions.

For individuals with anxiety disorders, CBT helps them recognize and manage irrational fears and worries. In the case of PTSD, CBT assists in processing traumatic experiences and reducing the associated symptoms. Moreover, for those struggling with eating disorders, CBT targets distorted body image and unhealthy eating habits, promoting healthier thoughts and behaviors around food and self-image. CBT aims to treat depression by addressing the distorted thought patterns and negative beliefs that underlie the condition.

CBT has also been found to be an effective treatment for many patients with dual diagnosis or those who have both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. Studies have shown that CBT can help patients with dual diagnoses reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

If you are seeking treatment for substance use disorders and mental illness such as generalized anxiety disorder, it is important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating both conditions. CBT is a well-established treatment for mental disorders, and many mental health counselors are trained in this type of therapy.

However, not all cognitive behavioral therapists are experienced in treating both mental disorders and substance use disorders. If you are seeking CBT for dual diagnosis treatment, be sure to ask your therapist if they have experience treating both conditions.

cognitive behavioral therapy for man suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Relapse Prevention

One encompassing benefit of cognitive therapy in the treatment of substance use disorders is the emphasis on long-term maintenance. People with SUDs are often susceptible to relapse and in worse cases, this relapse results in chronic pain. Therapists teach patients a new set of attitudes and skills they can rely on for the long-term. This not only improves the patient’s sense of self-sufficiency but can lead to a reduction in life stressors that might increase the risk of a relapse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was developed as a way to prevent relapse when treating alcohol use disorder (AUD). It was later adapted for treating cocaine addiction. One of the elements of CBT is anticipating problems and improving patients’ self-control by helping them establish effective coping strategies.

Specific CBT techniques include looking at the positive and negative consequences of drug use, self-monitoring to recognize cravings early, and identifying situations that might trigger use. Patients learn to develop strategies for dealing with cravings and avoiding high-risk situations.

Research shows that skills learned through cognitive behavioral approach remain after completing treatment. Current research is looking at how to produce even more powerful effects by combining CBT techniques with medications for drug abuse and with other types of behavioral therapies. A computer-based CBT system has been developed and is effective in helping reduce drug use after standard drug abuse treatment.

Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Have Any Risks?

CBT is not considered a risky therapy, but there are some things to bear in mind:

  • Some people might find it stressful or uncomfortable to confront their problems, in some instances, they experience chronic pain and physical problems due to stress.
  • Some types, such as exposure and rational emotive behavior therapy, can increase stress and anxiety while you work through it.
  • CBT doesn’t work overnight. You must be willing and committed to working on techniques between sessions and after therapy ends. It is a change of lifestyle that you follow and improve upon through your life.
group therapy having cognitive behavioral interventions

Do You Want to Change Your Life?

If you or a loved one need help now please call 772-774-3872 or click here to use your insurance to pay for therapy. We have a professional, caring staff at our CBT and addiction treatment center in Port St. Lucie you can depend on to help you through this difficult time. You can learn to control your behaviors and come out on the other side with a new chance at a full and satisfying life.

At Behavioral Health Centers, we offer evidence-based approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy and many others because you need a program designed specifically for you. Our facilities are located in Port Saint Lucie Florida, with amenities and activity therapies based on your needs.

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Medically reviewed by:

Dr. K. Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW

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If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.