Many drug and alcohol treatment programs provide access to several types of therapy. One of the most common options is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). At FHE Health, we use this treatment option as one of several components of care for conditions such as substance abuse and mental health disorders. Each patient receives individualized treatment plans that may include CBT. Here’s what you should know about it if we recommend it for your care.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Many men and women with substance abuse disorder or mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia have destructive and negative thoughts. These self-defeating thoughts work against them and lead to behaviors that drive addiction. CBT works as a type of short-term behavioral treatment. Its underlying goal is to help people to solve the problem they are facing to improve thought patterns.
Effective treatment with CBT works to help people to see the relationship between their thoughts, feelings and beliefs and their behaviors, especially the behaviors that follow those thought patterns. For example, if a person becomes discouraged when something doesn’t go their way, that can lead to self-deprecating thoughts. They hate themselves. This always happens to them. They get angry, frustrated and sad. To cope with those feelings, they use alcohol or drugs to “turn them off.” CBT aims to help people to understand that thought pattern so they can realize it’s happening and change their thinking.
CBT isn’t a specific step-by-step treatment. Rather, it refers to a set of therapies that create the same type of therapeutic change. At the heart of CBT is the belief that the way you see an event in the future determines how you’ll act. The negative thought patterns influence their focus, effort and motivation. However, with a counselor’s help, it’s possible to learn how to change those negative thoughts and, by doing so, change the outcome of the incident or the day.
What Is CBT Effective at Treating?
In a study published y the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, a study looked at just how effective CBT is for a variety of conditions: addiction and substance use disorder, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders. It found that seven out of 11 groups studied saw favorable outcomes from the use of CBT. Only one group studied saw any decline in effectiveness compared to other treatments.
What Is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Session Like?
Though it may seem like a strange type of treatment, CBT doesn’t have to be intimidating. Most often, it’s done in a one-on-one session, but it can be conducted in a group with family members. Some programs also incorporate a group of people who may share the same issues. Most often, these sessions are about talking about experiences and reactions.
During these sessions, you’ll learn about your mental health or substance abuse condition. Then, you’ll learn about specific techniques you can use to help you to turn those negative thoughts around. This includes things like stress management, assertiveness, coping mechanisms and relaxation.
During the therapy session, patients will talk about their feelings and thought patterns, opening up about things that may seem hard to talk about initially. Each step in the process focuses on individualized care for you, based on the way you think and react to situations.
Steps in CBT generally include:
- Identifying the troubling situation or those conditions in life making it difficult, such as anger, grief, a medical condition or symptoms of a mental illness
- Becoming aware of thoughts and emotions that occur because of these problems
- Learning to identify negative or inaccurate thinking, including considering physical, emotional and behavioral responses that occur when a situation arises
- Learning to reshape those moments of inaccurate thinking, such as by asking yourself whether the view of the situation in that moment is accurate. This is the longest and most difficult step, but with practice and patience, it’s possible to reverse thinking away from negative emotions.
What Are the Goals of CBT?
Those negative thoughts and feelings are what can directly impact what you do going forward. CBT doesn’t cure any type of substance use disorder or mental health condition. However, it can provide you with the ability to see what is happening and, in some cases, stop taking the negative action.
As a goal-oriented treatment plan, a large portion of this process revolves around learning to change a thought pattern to create a more positive outcome during real-life situations. This happens outside of the group session during day-to-day life.
How CBT Techniques Work
It’s not possible to simply change overnight. As a type of psychotherapy, CBT requires individuals to work through a process that changes the way you see yourself, which ultimately changes the way you view the world and your thought patterns. To do this, a series of CBT techniques is used to help encourage change. The following are some examples:
Mindfulness-based interventions are a way of reducing stress. Mindfulness means being aware of one’s mental and physical state. It also means understanding your current emotional and behavioral state. Imagine an intense argument with a loved one. No matter what’s happened, you’ve been angry. Your thought patterns move towards “I am always so stupid” or “I always make the same mistake.” This leads to a downward spiral.
In mindfulness, your goal is to stop yourself. You learn to become mindful of what you are thinking. During and after that argument, you become aware of what you are doing and what’s likely to happen if you don’t stop those thoughts.
Journal therapy revolves around writing to bring about awareness and improve mental health. This type of reflective writing helps to spur better insight into your thoughts. A series of writing prompts help you to talk about not just things that have happened but about the reactions that took place after them.
There’s also the simple task of writing itself that can help. For many people, the act of writing helps to reduce stress and tension. It also helps to create more clarity to whatever is happening in that moment.
Some therapists also incorporate exercises into treatment programs. Some of these exercises are steps like using writing prompts or role-playing. The sole goal is to see a situation from a different point of view or to fully embrace a situation.
With the help of these exercises, conducted during a therapy session, you learn more about other actions or reactions you can take. By demonstrating through such exercises, it’s possible for you to remember this in the heat of the moment and take a different route.
The History of CBT
CBT isn’t a new therapy. It was developed in the 1960s as a way to capture more of the internal dialogues people have within themselves that spur outward reactions. The therapy was developed by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck. He noticed, in his treatment of people with a variety of mental health and addiction disorders, that people often had an inward conversation with themselves.
He found that his patients’ thoughts often impacted the way they felt. He called these automatic thoughts. Over time, he developed a way to understand and change those thoughts, and this later became CBT. Most of his work and overall methods are still used today by therapists in CBT techniques.
CBT Is Just One of the Treatments at FHE Health
Emotional and behavioral connections exist in good and bad situations in our life. For those who have a mental health disorder or a substance use disorder, these thought patterns are essential to understand.
As one of the treatment options we offer at FHE Health, CBT works to help you to move beyond negative thoughts towards recovery. Each patient receives individualized treatment and care from our team. A treatment plan that fits your needs is available to you. Contact us today to learn more.