Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most popular psychotherapy treatment (talk therapy) that uses different methods (cognitive and behavioral) to help people struggling with mental health problems, and/or alcohol and drug abuse. The goal of CBT is to identify negative behaviors and thoughts that cause these difficulties. After finding out the cause of the behaviors, the therapist encourages a change in the person’s relationship to the negative thinking patterns. The person adopts different types of coping strategies. So, cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t change the person’s thinking but emphasizes changes in the way the person looks at their destructive thoughts.
If you ever attend a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy session with a therapist, you will learn how to accept your mistakes and stop the cycle of negative thoughts by acknowledging that it is okay to make mistakes. Also, you will learn to find a coping mechanism that will help you move on. By thoroughly analyzing a situation you will stop the cycle of negative thoughts by seeing the positive sides of it.
This therapy was initially developed as a method to treat depression, but today it is widely used for treating other mental health and behavioral health conditions, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Studies have shown that CBT-alone is as effective as psychotropic medications in treating less severe forms of:
- Substance abuse,
- Eating disorders and
- Borderline personality disorder
What Makes CBT Different?
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the problems are broken into five main areas, including:
- Physical Feelings
The main concept of CBT is the interconnection between these five main areas and the way they affect each other. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a short, but effective form of psychotherapy. The reason this therapy approach is so successful is that it focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions.
It pays attention to the negative thinking patterns, the way they affect the things we do and how we feel. By recognizing the situations that lead to negative thoughts, the patient gets a chance to avoid those situations or simply deal with them in a different, harmless way.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is different from other psychotherapies because it is:
- Practical – cognitive behavioral therapy goes straight to problem identification and finding a proper solution for it.
- Focuses on Current Problems – following the first point, with CBT, you will focus on the way you think and act now rather than what you’ve done in the past.
- Highly Structured – during CBT sessions, you and your therapist will discuss specific problems and set objectives for you to accomplish.
- Collaboration – you and your therapist will mutually find a solution for the difficulties that you are currently facing.Meaning, you will take an active role in solving your problems rather than your therapist telling you what is the best way to solve the problem without your actual involvement in the process of therapy.
Techniques Used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is a general term for different types of therapies, including Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and Rational Behavior Therapy.
The goal of this method used in CBT is to test thoughts. For example, the thoughts that make you behave in a certain way and lead to mental health issues or drug abuse? You can use this method to test the effect positive self-encouragement and support), as well as negative (self-criticism) thoughts, have on your everyday life. Monitor the progress you will make if changing the criticism into understanding and acceptance and how that affects your mental health issue.
Pleasant Activity Scheduling
This approach is very helpful for patients going through depression. First, you will need to write the next seven days down on a piece of paper. Then, schedule one activity that you enjoy and would normally do every day, like reading a book or eating a quiet lunch or dinner. There is no restriction on the type of activities you can write down. Sometimes you can put activities that make you feel more accomplished, competent or smart. The activities should be small and should take around 10-15 minutes to finish. For a more advanced form of pleasant activity scheduling, schedule three pleasant activities per day – one for the morning, one for the afternoon and one for the evening. The point of this CBT technique is for you to do positive things that make you happy and help you stop from having narrow, rigid, and negative thoughts.
Similarly to behavioral experiments, this technique is also created to test the validity of thoughts. Through this method, you will analyze the negative feedback that you might get from other people. So, whenever you get negative feedback instead of jumping to conclusions and having irrational thoughts you will write both positive and negative thoughts, analyze them and add an objective evidence that will support them. This will help you identify irrational thoughts that lead to irrational actions.
Situation Exposure Hierarchies
This method involves creating a list of the things that you would normally avoid. For example, if you have anxiety, you will make a list of things that give you anxiety, like asking strangers for directions or leaving the house more often. After creating the list, the next step is to rate each item of the list from one to ten. How distressed will you be if you actually tried those things?
- After that, you will order the items from the highest to the lowest and look at the list carefully. This list reflects your problem. You should first test this method with a few items and your reaction when actually doing these situations. The point of situation exposure hierarchies is to work your way through the list from lowest to highest and work through each item until you feel more comfortable in the situation. Continue doing this pattern until the items are out of the list or rated at half of what they were the first time you tried doing them.
Imagery Based Exposure
Imagery based exposure is used to bring to mind a recent memory that evoked strong negative emotions. Basically, the therapist will ask you to bring out a recent negative situation and remember it in details. You will need to remember a lot of sensory details (tone of voice of the person that was involved in the situation and made you feel a certain way, what the place looked like, etc). The next step is to attempt to go through the emotions experienced in the situation and label their intensity. You should remember what you wanted to do when the situation happened, like cry, get angry, leave the place etc.
- In a version of this method, called prolonged imagery exposure, you will have to keep visualizing the situation until you get more and more comfortable with it. Basically, the goal is to reduce the distress level to about half of its initial level. The importance of this method is in its ability to help the patient make painful memories less likely to trigger rumination. This also helps the patient choose better and healthier coping options instead of avoiding a situation.
What to expect from your CBT sessions?
CBT can be carried out as an individual session or a group session. The individual sessions usually last for 30 minutes to an hour. You will meet your therapist between five and 20 times on weekly or fortnightly sessions. Usually, the sessions are held in a clinic, somewhere outside or based on your mental health condition, in your home.
If you want this therapy to work, you will also need to learn how to collaborate with your therapist. Communication is key when it comes to solving any problem, so you should work on learning how to communicate with your therapist. But to do that, you will first need to learn how to trust the therapist. Also, keep in mind that there is not an overnight fix to your problems. So, keep an open mind and try to follow the therapy techniques as much as you can because there is proof of their effectiveness.
For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.