Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that approximately 19% of Americans have experienced a mental health condition. On top of that, an estimated 22 million people are addicted to alcohol and drugs like fentanyl, cocaine, meth, heroin, and prescription pills. Mental illness and/or a disease like addiction can be the greatest challenge a person can face when attempting to live a normal life. For many, these two issues can range in severity anywhere between mildly disruptive to completely crippling.
Luckily, both mental health disorders and addiction can be treated with professional services, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
What is CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that helps people identify their negative thinking and behavioral patterns in an effort to replace them with healthy thinking and behavioral patterns. Changing destructive ways of thinking and behaving can help produce better behavioral and emotional outcomes. Patients receiving CBT will be encouraged to challenge the reasons why their negative thinking and behavioral patterns are occurring and then work with a therapist to determine how to effectively modify those patterns. In comparison to most other therapies, CBT is one that gets the patient focused on the present moment as opposed to their past history.
Since the 1960’s when cognitive behavioral therapy was first developed by psychiatrist Aaron Beck, it has been used to help treat people of all ages. Today, it is one of the most utilized therapies in substance use disorder treatment programs, as it has shown to be capable of increasing recovering addicts’ and alcoholics’ sobriety time.
According to the Beck Institute of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, CBT is based on the following core principles:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on an ever-evolving formulation of patients’ problems and an individualized idea of each patient in cognitive terms
- Cognitive behavioral therapy requires a sound therapeutic alliance
- Cognitive behavioral therapy emphasizes collaboration and active participation
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is goal oriented and problem-focused
- Cognitive behavioral therapy initially emphasizes the present
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is educative, aims to teach the patient to be their own therapist, and emphasizes relapse prevention
The overarching goal of CBT is to help patients change the inaccurate perceptions and distortions that they have of themselves so that their subsequent behaviors and emotional wellbeing will encourage positivity rather than aid in the continuation of problematic cycles of thought, behavior, and emotional response.
CBT is evidence-based, which means that it has been professionally tested and scientifically proven to help treat symptoms associated with several mental health conditions, such as:
- Bipolar disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders (e.g. bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating)
- Substance use disorder
CBT is not limited to treating just the above listed conditions, as it has proven to be effective for those experiencing other mental health and behavioral issues.
- Identify the problem or problems – In order to accomplish success in CBT, patients must work to identify the issues that are potentially aiding in their distorted thoughts and behaviors. Not only is it common for the symptoms of a mental health disorder to serve as the triggers for inaccurate thoughts and subsequent behaviors, but it is also common for environmental issues to act as triggers, too. For example, someone who has a chronic health condition or who is living in a difficult marriage may be getting caught up in their own destructive patterns. Uncovering the root of one’s issues lays the foundation for the rest of the steps of CBT to be executed.
- Develop awareness – One a patient has determined their triggers, they can then begin to establish an awareness of them. This can include talking with a therapist about what a person’s self-talk sounds like, how they interpret the words and actions of themselves and others, and what kinds of beliefs they hold about themselves. For example, the therapist may ask the patient what their opinion is on what type of parent they are. The therapist can work to gauge how severe the distortions are based on the person’s answers.
- Identify incorrect thinking – At this point, the triggering event or events are identified and the patient has developed an awareness about their thinking and behavioral patterns. Now comes the time to label specific incorrect thoughts that the patient experiences. This can be done by talking about what a patient is thinking of prior to displaying negative behavior and asking them to recognize how they feel physically, mentally, and emotionally in those moments. Separating self-destructive negative thinking patterns and warranted thoughts is imperative.
- Change incorrect thinking – Changing these incorrect thinking patterns is often the greatest challenge of all, as it takes a great deal of effort and persistence. Learning how to make this change comes from knowing how to mitigate negative thinking and behaving before they start, as well as how to rein them in if they do. It involves establishing healthy patterns of thinking and behaving that can be implemented into everyday life so that all else can follow.
When involved in CBT, a patient benefits most when they put forth as much effort and dedication as they can. CBT is not easy for many people, however this type of therapy is effective in short periods of time, meaning that even the most troubled individuals do not need to spend a lifetime engaged in CBT.
The greatest benefit of CBT is empowering a person to gain the power to control and change the ways in which they bring negativity into their own lives. In addition to this, however, there are many other ways that patients can benefit from CBT, including the following:
- Improved management of symptoms related to mental health conditions and substance use disorders
- Better ability to handle chronic physical pain
- Stronger likelihood of avoiding relapse
- Development of coping skills that help patients improve all areas of their lives
- Establishment of strong emotional intelligence and learn how to effectively regulate emotions
- Greater ability to handle grief, loss, and other upsetting events
- Improved communication skills
CBT is the most effective when the patient puts forth as much effort and dedication to the process as possible. A therapist can help determine if CBT is the only therapy that the patient needs, as well as if they may require prescription medication.
At Launch Centers in Los Angeles, our distinguished clinicians understand what it takes to recover from addiction and mental health disorders. We offer individualized and comprehensive treatment plans to identify root causes of negative thought patterns and develop new and healthy coping mechanisms.