Have you ever sat on the couch watching “Intervention” on TV and asked yourself, “Can’t those people see how they’re hurting themselves?” And then you realize you’re stuffing your face with another pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Been there, done that. Even when our behavior is more severe, we may not even realize when we’re engaging in destructive behavior and we need help identifying it and discovering exactly what is making us repeat the same mistakes again and again so we can finally break the habit. This is where behavioral therapy steps in.
What Is Behavioral Therapy?
Behavioral therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is a form of therapy founded by Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. This approach to treatment involves working directly with your therapist in a proactive role to find connections between your thoughts and subsequent behaviors. In simpler terms, you and your mental health professional take an active role in finding automatic (or impulsive) thoughts and changing your reaction from negative to positive. Your therapist might assign you homework or exercises outside of therapy to help you modify your behavior. Rest assured, if you think CBT means lying on a couch and passively complaining, think again.
One of the big advantages of CBT is how fast it works. Someone who understands how illogical and damaging their negative thoughts are tend to change their thinking and behavior a lot more quickly. They start replacing the initial negative thoughts–which are usually what drives them to use drugs or alcohol–with healthier patterns of thinking and acting.
For instance, your initial thought pattern may tell you that everybody at work hates you, especially your boss. So instead of repeating that automatic, impulsive thought pattern and self-medicating yourself to feel better, you replace it with a more positive outlook. For instance, you may tell yourself “If I work hard to prove myself and my skills to my boss, people will begin to see me as part of the team and I will be more successful at work. Then my co-workers will like and respect me.”
How Does Behavioral Therapy or CBT Help With Addiction?
Let’s face it, you can’t stay in rehab forever. There’s a reason why many rehabilitation and recovery centers use behavioral therapy–this particular therapy works fast and helps you develop techniques quickly that can help you in the “real world” to begin recovery. Counselors can quickly help you develop coping skills to get you started, then go deeper into the negative patterns and how to manage them as you transition to either sober living or a home setting.
Many recovering addicts focus on their thoughts and actions by keeping a journal. They use them as a tool to work with their therapist on correcting their toxic emotions and the resulting destructive behaviors. This gets right to the heart of the matter and usually produces results fairly quickly. You can also focus on identifying what motivates you in correcting negativity–taking the understanding approach or showing yourself some tough love. Your treatment plan needs to be personalized to what works for you, not for the guy or gal in the next bed.
If you suffer from trauma in your past that creates negative thoughts and feeds your addiction, reliving those horrors takes a lot of courage, but each time you do, it gets easier. Set aside time and try to remember as many details as you can of the experience. The more exposure to the traumatic memories, the less effect they have and the less likely they are to drive you to using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.
Other Benefits of Behavioral Therapy
In addition to treating addiction, CBT works to treat any co-occurring mental illnesses at the same time. With addiction, you often find an accompanying mental illness that can hinder progress and needs to be addressed as well. Behavioral therapy treats both problems with one approach and with one therapist. So if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or maybe bipolar disorder, this form of treatment helps with those mental issues, as well.
Behavioral therapy also teaches you better communication skills. This doesn’t just help you with your therapist, but aids in developing relationships outside a professional setting. Getting emotional support from friends (at least ones who aren’t using) helps keep us from relapsing.
With CBT, you’re not just treating your addiction, you’re also gaining a whole new sense of mental well-being. Your moods improve. Your confidence improves. You feel better about yourself and life. When you are happy, you no longer need to use outside chemicals to get through a day. Being naturally happy and healthy becomes your best defense from relapse and using again.
Behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to create the most effective and fastest changes in motivation, emotions, and behavior and is used widely in recovery and rehabilitation. Working proactively with a mental health professional, you make life-changing connections in thoughts and actions that take you from negative emotions– and the need to medicate those emotions–to a far more positive healthy mindset that can be your best defense against relapse. By journaling, you can work with your therapist to find the keys to making real change. You can also learn to face trauma from your past and learn how to manage the negative feelings that may be setting off your cravings. At Everlast Recovery, you can find healing and hope in a home-like atmosphere. We offer detox services as well as cognitive behavioral therapy to help you gain the skills needed to live a clean and sober life. You can do it and we can help. Call us for a fresh start at (800) 338-6925.