What is CBT Therapy?

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Thursday, November 15, 2018 | By Cooper Samp

If you’ve ever been to treatment or even looked into addiction help, you’ve probably heard of CBT therapy.  What exactly is it? CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a unique type of behavioral therapy with the intention of reshaping a person’s natural way of thinking. The goal is to change a person’s beliefs, his or her attitude and ultimately their behavior. Because CBT helps individuals deal with stressful and uncomfortable situations, a large part of it is learning techniques and strategies on how to face these difficulties and effectively handle them. CBT is one of the most widely used and useful forms of treatment offered by many rehab centers. Standard health care plans typically cover CBT treatment.

The design of CBT is not for lifelong participation. Once CBT has been effectively administered (within 1-3 months), participants should be able to use these skills indefinitely. The goal of CBT in addiction therapy is to help those struggling to develop newer habits and behaviors that can help them break free from the negative behaviors that make one susceptible to addiction.

The History Behind CBT Treatment

Aaron Beck, an American psychiatrist who practiced psychoanalysis, is said to be the father of cognitive therapy. Beck had noticed through his work and research a compelling relationship between a person’ thinking and the way they felt. Simply put, the things a person thinks affected their feelings and behaviors.

When Beck came to this realization, he started to alter the standard form of therapy he had practiced with his clients and developed what is now known as CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy allows individuals to become more self-aware of how they think and how that can affect them. Through this type of treatment, individuals learn to identify, understand and deal with emotion-filled thoughts. By these means, people are then able to control their behaviors and reactions to various external stimuli and circumstances.

CBT in the modern world has evolved into a combination of many other tactics and theories. For instance, it can incorporate the Alber Ellis’ ABC multimodal therapy and rational-emotive behavioral therapy. CBT can also involve some of the famous Carl Rogers’ client-centered approach. With that said, these practices are all centered in Beck’s original work but seek to extend his approach to control and regulate emotional behavior.

How Does CBT Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a behavioral therapy that requires more of a hands-on approach. This type of behavioral therapy will not work unless both the professional therapist and client are actively involved and invested in the process.

During the initial therapy sessions, the therapist will work with the individual to asses obstacles standing in the way of the individual’s aspirations. The therapist will then work with the client to come up with new strategies to overcome their situation. Problems could be reconnecting estranged relationships and start with the simple task of calling someone. By diving into these simple tasks, therapists can discuss how they can go about doing these things in a positive manner that will yield the desired outcome. Individuals in CBT will have to consider for themselves how they can approach these problems in a positive manner. Overtime CBT retrains one’s cognitive processing skills and abilities.

Understanding Cognitive Distortions and How to Deal with Them

Much like how we learn to eat healthily and learn to form a habit out of exercising, it is also possible to teach the brain to think healthier. If an individual is around people who think negatively, they to will develop the same techniques. Cognitive Distortions are known as a faulty way of thinking. Our behavior is directly affected by our thinking patterns. Negative thinking can lead to adverse behaviors like apathy or aggression. CBT works by teaching people how to recognize these cognitive distortions. Professional therapists experienced in handling these scenarios educate their clients on how to maneuver these issues more productively. People will start to notice less conflict in their lives and develop a sense of overall confidence in handling everyday situations.

CBT explores 15 different cognitive distortions. These distortions reinforce negative behaviors, emotions, and negative emotions. Let us take a look at just 5 of these distortions.

  • Control Fallacies: Some people think that everything happens externally by some other force. If a person believes everything is out of their control, it can put a lot of pressure on them. It is smart to realize that some things can happen by chance.
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: The thought that if you do good, good things will happen to you. While this train of thought is primarily well-intended, it can also cause individuals to feel bitter when they do not receive a reward.
  • Overgeneralization: This happens when someone takes an incident and presents it as evidence for a broad conclusion. For example, maybe someone has a bad day at work, and instead of tossing it up as just a bad day, they contribute it to their work performance.
  • Polarized Thinking: also known as “black and white” thinking: Life is rarely binary. To say that something is either A or B can be an oversimplification. This oversimplification can lead to poor judgment and reactions. Sometimes the world is just grey. We must take in all the factors we can and perceive circumstances in honest ways. People who see things as one or the other can lose out on many decisive moments in life.
  • Filtering: The “Negative Nancy” effect where a person only focuses on all the bad things that happen and fail to realize all of the good. This effect can cause a bleak outlook on everyday life and hurt many of the person’s relationships causing further negative feelings.

Sometimes all it takes is a therapist to point out why certain types of thinking can be harmful. Learning about these different types of cognitive distortions can help improve the overall mental health of individuals.

Differentiating Between Facts and Opinions

This type of framework is generally done to help clients become more aware of their thinking. It can be difficult for some people to differentiate between what is fact and what is opinion. Most individuals who suffer from multiple cognitive distortions believe their views are facts. This discrepancy can make it difficult for clients to realize their dysfunctional thoughts or emotions are not always right; this exercise can help alleviate this problem.

Essential CBT Technique and Tools

CBT is a complex therapy that involves a multitude of different techniques to help overcome negative thinking. Therapists experienced with CBT can practice these techniques with their clients until they have mastered them. This process can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years depending on the severity. CBT techniques include but are not limited to:

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: basically what it sounds like: relaxing one muscle group at a time until the entire body is in a relaxed state. By relaxing the body, the mind will naturally unwind with it. A person can make more logical decisions towards a problematic situation in a relaxed state.
  • Journaling: A popular technique used throughout psychology. The beauty of journaling is that it can be subjective to whoever is writing. The advantages of journaling are abundant but can help with memory, decisions, planning, and accountability.
  • Relaxed Breathing: A method used to calm oneself during stressful situations.
  • Interoceptive Exposure: People can be afraid or anxious about certain stimuli, but interoceptive exposure exposes individuals to these stimuli in a controlled environment. This technique helps show there is nothing to fear and can help teach coping mechanisms.
  • Nightmare Exposure and Rescripting: Nightmares can have lasting effects on people. They let the fear consume them and this can be so severe that it can prevent them from progressing further in life. Nightmare Exposure looks at the nightmares in detail and creates meaning (or no meaning) behind them. Clients can then learn to view their nightmares with different emotions.

These techniques have a wide variety of uses for mental disorders as well as substance use disorders. Co-occurring disorders are quite common among drug abusers. People struggling with substance use develop additional mental health disorders because they use drugs or alcohol to cope with their mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). CBT is not limited to drug use but can apply to eating disorders, personality disorders, and bipolar disorders as well. By understanding and practicing the positive psychology techniques involved with CBT, individuals can improve their mental health condition as they learn to think in a healthier and more productive manner.

Effective Cognitive behavioral therapy treatment helps patients become better and healthier people. CBT involves a cognitive restructuring of the brain, making it capable of treating mental illnesses and addiction.

Try CBT and See Whether It Works for You!

Different people respond to different types of therapies. CBT might not be the best option for you, but until you try it, you’ll never know. Also, the therapist can affect whether you respond well to the treatment. Some therapists can differ in experience and philosophies. Addiction professionals recommend at least one 50-minute to 60-minute CBT therapy session a week for several months to see optimal results. Some people may be able to conquer their addiction within 2-3 months with CBT while other may need more intensive and extensive care.If you are interested in CBT treatment for addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our addiction specialists. Coalition Recovery offers CBT as part of our extensive treatment program.  Our counselors have an extensive background in CBT work and use this as their primary strategy for addiction treatment. The health professionals at Coalition Recovery alcohol rehab can help you rewrite the negative patterns of thought and train the brain to think in a positive manner that can have lasting results in demeanor and overall mental health. Our 90-day program is what we recommend to accomplish the complete CBT program here at Coalition Recovery. We can track progress, and if we see little improvement with CBT therapy, we can offer an alternative therapy. We also provide a variety of other treatment programs if individuals or their therapists do not feel CBT is right for them.

CBT can help improve an individual’s goal setting abilities, but might not be the cure-all. That is why it is essential to compliment CBT with other therapeutic techniques. For instance, someone addicted to pain medications due to a chronic ailment may benefit from physical therapy, yoga, and meditation alongside CBT treatment.

One thing to know about CBT is that you must keep an open mind throughout the process. CBT therapy is a process that takes time, but if you trust in it, it can help make tremendous improvements in your overall life and satisfaction. With discipline, perseverance, and motivation, you too can achieve long-term sobriety regardless of your type of addiction.

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