When you’re considering therapy as part of your recovery program, you may be at a complete loss of where to start. Or maybe you think therapy is a one-size-fits-all approach. The truth is that multiple forms of therapy exist to meet different needs. A common type of therapy for addiction and other mental health disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Understanding what it is and how it works can help you determine if it’s the right solution for you.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT addresses the relationship between cognition (thought processes) and behavior. Often, incorrect and harmful thinking bring about emotional suffering, which in turn leads to poor decision-making and then a reinforcement of false beliefs. For example, an addict who believes that he or she is inherently weak won’t believe maintaining sobriety is possible and will likely not succeed at it. This result will only confirm in the addict’s mind that he or she is weak.
The purpose of CBT is to identify and correct false core beliefs. Once the thought process changes, then the emotions and behaviors can change.
Who benefits from CBT?
CBT is an appropriate form of therapy for any age; however, therapy in children may focus more on reducing behaviors than reducing thoughts or feelings. This type of therapy is generally used for people with mental health issues, including:
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Sleep problems
CBT for these disorders is helpful in reducing or managing symptoms. In the context of addiction, it helps patients find coping skills and mechanisms to reduce impulsive behaviors that may come from negative thoughts or feelings.
How does it work?
The first meeting with the therapist is an assessment to find out what the outward problem is, such as addiction, and what goals you have for therapy. With this information, the therapist can decide if CBT will help and whether medication is also necessary. The next session continues with uncovering the negative thought and behavior patterns that contribute to the problem. This evaluation allows the therapist to create a customized treatment plan for a higher chance of success.
Subsequent sessions involve talking, doing mental health exercises, learning emotional and behavioral skills, and altering core beliefs. You may also have to do homework outside of your therapy sessions to practice what you are learning. As part of addiction recovery, CBT includes discussing relapse prevention.
How long does it last?
Treatment is short in comparison to other types of therapy, lasting from 8 to 15 sessions on average. It may be shorter or longer depending on your needs. You can go through the sessions privately or in a group setting. Note that CBT is a short-term therapy. If you need regular, ongoing therapy for the long-term, your therapist won’t practice with CBT.
What types of CBT exist?
CBT is an overarching approach or philosophy for multiple techniques that follow the same principles. There are two common subtypes. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy focuses on improving rational thinking to eliminate destructive thought patterns. Dialectical Behavior Therapy targets emotional management and acceptance and is often used for addicts who use substances to deal with feelings.
While CBT is a well-researched and effective form of therapy, it may not be for everyone. In order to succeed in addiction recovery, it’s important to find a therapy that you are comfortable with and feel committed to. Otherwise, it can be difficult to maintain sobriety.
The best way to find out if CBT is a good treatment option for you is to speak with a mental health professional. Contact Pyramid Healthcare for assistance in determining the right program for you or a loved one.
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