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What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, focuses on how thoughts, beliefs, and emotions affect behavior. For many people in recovery, a cognitive-behavioral therapy program is an essential resource. The skills you learn in CBT can help you stay sober—and improve your self-esteem, goal-setting strategies, and interpersonal skills in the process.

What is CBT? What are the Goals of CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an approach to treatment that recognizes and changes inaccurate and destructive thought patterns.

The core principles of CBT include the belief that psychological problems come from flawed thinking. This thinking leads to unhelpful behavior patterns that you learn and develop over time.

Your behavior will change as you reframe your thoughts and learn better ways to cope with your problems. For instance, you can replace negative beliefs about yourself with positive, encouraging ones and treat yourself with more respect as a result. Cognitive-behavioral therapy programs have helped many people find healthy ways to cope in challenging situations where they’d typically have turned to alcohol or drugs.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Methods and Techniques

One of the first steps you’ll take in CBT is identifying the problems, concerns, and goals you want to pursue. Next, you’ll unpack the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs you have about those problems. For instance, you may be asked to listen to your “self-talk” or what you’re telling yourself about a situation.

A trained therapist or group facilitator can help you identify any inaccurate or incorrect aspects of your thoughts. They can point out, or help you point out, whether your interpretation is based on facts or opinions. They’ll then guide you to a new interpretation that’s more realistic and helpful.

Here are some common destructive thought patterns or “cognitive distortions” that CBT challenges:

  • Overgeneralizing, or drawing overly broad conclusions based on a single belief.
  • Catastrophizing, or assuming the worst will happen.
  • Emotional reasoning, or believing things are true because you feel them to be true.
  • Jumping to conclusions, or falsely believing you know what someone else is thinking.

Practices like “cognitive restructuring”—examining the distortions affecting your thoughts and viewing these distortions in light of reality–can help you come up with thoughts that are more accurate, constructive, and compassionate. You may write down your thoughts and actions in a journal to observe how your thoughts and feelings affect your behavior. As you become more aware of your own mood and tendencies, you’ll be better able to counteract intrusive thoughts.

Changing behavior patterns is another crucial aspect of cognitive-behavioral therapy. You may learn to:

  • Face fears and challenges rather than avoid them.
  • Establish attainable, realistic, and specific goals.
  • Question your automatic assumptions and consider events from different perspectives.
  • Use problem-solving skills to cope with challenges.
  • Role-play to practice handling difficult interpersonal interactions.
  • Relax and calm yourself when you’re experiencing overwhelming emotions.

CBT is goal-oriented, which means you’ll spend time discussing current problems and solutions rather than examining your past choices. The approach emphasizes applying learned skills in daily life.

Who Can Benefit From Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

Many substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions may have CBT as a part of their treatment plan. These conditions include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol and drug use disorders

People in recovery or living with mental illness can use CBT skills to manage their emotions, cope in stressful situations, overcome trauma, resolve conflict, and avoid temptations to relapse.

CBT Programs at Greater Boston Addiction Centers

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a cornerstone of our treatment. Each client at Greater Boston Addiction Centers receives a personalized treatment plan with their unique needs and diagnosis in mind. Individual and group therapy are offered, and our trained facilitators provide safe, judgment-free spaces for learning and practicing CBT skills.

This evidence-backed treatment can be an essential part of your recovery. Contact us at 877.920.6583 to find out more.