Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One of the most essential therapeutic modalities in the early recovery process is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is an essential part to almost all substance abuse treatment programs. CBT gives you the tools to examine your thoughts and feelings, recognize the mistakes you made in your thinking process, and change your behaviors. This therapy can help treat everything from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, and personality disorders.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that helps clients change their thinking and behavior patterns. Unlike other kinds of therapy that spend a lot of time talking about the past and where issues might have come from, CBT deals with thoughts and behaviors happening in the present.
CBT tells us that:
Professionals use many different methods to help people recognize and deal with these negative thinking and behavior patterns. CBT requires active participation, and people will often have worksheets or journals to track events, thoughts, and behaviors as they occur.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
CBT works by teaching people how to deal with problems and situations as they happen in the real world. Clients learn to:
This may seem like a short list, but each step requires hard work, focus, and commitment. People make thinking mistakes called cognitive distortions all the time. We do not realize when we make these errors, but most people make them all day. One cognitive distortion is confirmation bias, meaning we notice and pay more attention to things that agree with what we already know and ignore things that contradict our present knowledge. While this may not seem like a problem, it can keep you locked into the same continuous thinking patterns.
In CBT, clients pay attention to the thoughts that go through their minds when an event happens. Those thoughts will determine how they respond to the event. For example, do they get angry because they think someone scratched our car out of spite? Or do they stay calm and recognize that someone might have stumbled against their car and not even realized they scratched it?
The way we respond to thoughts may not seem like it makes a difference in the way we live our lives. However, our thought processes affect how we think and act after the fact and can last all day long. Acting out on a behavior after a thought does not mean we go out looking for the person who scratched our car. It might mean that we say something unkind to a coworker just because the thought makes us feel angry and mistreated.
By changing our thinking, CBT teaches us to put aside that gut reaction and focus on more realistic and helpful thoughts. If we think someone scratched our car by accident instead of maliciously, we can call our insurance company, feel our feelings, and go on with our day. The thought stops controlling us.
In the same way, CBT teaches people to recognize behaviors that negatively impact their lives, then replace them with more helpful behaviors. As simple as it sounds, it is no easy feat. CBT requires hard work and patience. Trying to change the thought “I feel awful. I should just lay on the couch and rest” to “I feel awful. Getting outside would really help” does not happen overnight.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction
At Everlast Recovery Centers, we use CBT and other therapy methods to ensure that each person gets the full benefits of treatment and their clinical needs met. Therapies like CBT that focus on making practical changes are useful in early recovery because they help people make better decisions when confronted with problems in their lives, allowing them to maintain long-term sobriety.
CBT can help people in recovery change their thoughts and behaviors related to drugs but also to other stressors in their lives that might make them consider relapse.
An unhelpful thought that runs over and over in someone’s head might be, “I already ruined my life using this drug, so I might as well just use it one more time.” With time and practice, that thought could change to “My life is getting back on track, and I’m not messing it up again.”
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Residential Treatment
Most residential programs offer CBT along with other therapies. Inpatient treatment at Everlast Recovery Centers gives people a chance to experience CBT through individual and group therapy. The more time our clients spend practicing the skills taught in CBT, the better they will work in real-life application post-treatment. However, CBT only focuses on thoughts and behaviors in the present moment, so the support of other therapies to address the underlying issues of addiction is often necessary. At Everlast, we combine CBT with several different types of therapy to achieve the best results for our patients.