Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Sometimes it can be difficult to find the help we need—for ourselves or for our loved ones—because the medical and therapeutic fields have their own special jargon that can be difficult to understand. For example, perhaps you’ve run across references to something known as “cognitive behavioral therapy” or CBT as an option for people in treatment for a substance use disorder. Maybe you’ve encountered a description that reads something like: a kind of psychosocial intervention which incorporates elements of both cognitive and behavioral psychology.
Maybe you’ve read that description over and over and still don’t know what it means or how it might benefit you or your loved one.
Put simply, cognitive behavioral therapy is all about the relationships between your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. When we have a better understanding of how those three things are connected, it can be easier to discover solutions to our most immediate issues and problems. CBT is structured, focused on goals, and designed to address current concerns. The process is generally limited to 12 to 16 sessions (it may also be completed as part of a rehab program), so it differs from other kinds of therapy that may last for months or even years.
The ABCs of CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help individuals with substance use disorders manage their condition more effectively. In addition, because it is goal-oriented, it is often recommended for those dealing with other mental health challenges, including anxiety, phobias, and depression. This makes CBT a powerful tool for those with co-occurring diagnoses.
For some, a variation of CBT known as dialectical behavior therapy (or DBT) can also provide benefits. DBT is helpful for individuals who have a tendency to experience extreme reactions in challenging circumstances. In this case, the fancy jargon of “dialectical behavior therapy” simply refers to adding the concepts of acceptance, mindfulness, and distress tolerance to the usual CBT approaches to therapy.
When you or a loved one enters a treatment facility and a personalized plan is developed for your care, the healthcare team will determine whether to include CBT or DBT.
Putting CBT to Work
Functional analysis and skills training are the two key components of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Functional analysis just means working to figure out the cause or causes of a difficulty you are currently facing. For example, through the use of functional analysis, a person may come to realize that they have been using illicit drugs as a way to lessen the impact of ongoing anxiety caused by a disorder or by a difficult personal situation. Arriving at an understanding of the primary causes of a problem is an important first step to putting that problem behind us.
The other portion of CBT, skills training, is all about developing healthier ways to address the problems that are brought to light during functional analysis. Sticking with the example above, a person who realizes they are experiencing ongoing anxiety—for whatever reason—may commit to making better, more helpful choices for coping with that anxiety.
Taken together, the functional analysis and skills training of cognitive behavioral therapy help establish the conditions necessary for a person to overcome their current problems.
The Experience of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Some of the things you or a loved one may experience during cognitive behavioral therapy include:
- Thoughtful reflection about the pros and cons of continuing to use harmful substances
- Careful thinking designed to identify situations that may lead you to misuse drugs of alcohol
- Making a plan to aid you as you work to avoid high-risk situations
- Learning to self-monitor so that you are aware when dangerous cravings arise
- Developing a plan for dealing with cravings when they do arise
- Becoming aware of the ways in which dwelling on negative thoughts can undermine your recovery and finding ways to combat those thoughts
During rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy may be a part of both group and individual therapy sessions. In a group setting, CBT can remind individuals that their challenges are shared by others, which in turn can help a person feel less alone. For individuals, CBT can be used to dig deeply into situations and issues that are currently challenging the person as they work toward lasting sobriety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a Powerful Tool – But Not a Cure
CBT is an extremely effective tool that can provide great benefits for a person working to overcome a substance use disorder. That said, it is important to remember that CBT is not a cure. Substance use disorders are chronic illnesses that require vigilance and a commitment to sobriety. CBT is a powerful tool for building the foundation upon which that sobriety can be built. Cognitive behavioral therapy can make a difference during rehab, as you begin your recovery journey, and after relapse should one occur.
Dealing with a Substance Use Disorder? Let’s Talk About CBT ASAP
Wooded Glen Recovery Center provides personalized care for each person we treat for a substance use disorder. If we believe cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy could be helpful to you or a loved one during rehab and beyond, we have the expertise and resources to help you benefit from these therapeutic practices. CBT is one of many tools we can use in order to make sure the care we offer is of the highest quality. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to Wooded Glen Recovery Center. We are here for you during challenging times.