What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

cognitive behavioral therapy

Many forms of talk therapy are effective in treating substance use disorders, mental illnesses, and general emotional issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most well known and successful talk therapies, and it is one of many offered at Sana Lake Recovery Center. CBT has been studied extensively, which makes it a popular option among the general population. If you are considering enrolling in CBT after you complete your medical detox, here is some more information about the practice.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Work?

Cognitive behavioral therapy operates through brief, structured sessions that are meant to help you identify negative or inaccurate emotions that are hindering how you view situations. Unlike psychotherapy, CBT looks at principles from cognitive and behavioral psychology, focusing more on specific problems, thought patterns and behaviors rather than the unconscious meaning behind them. It aims to replace “unproductive” thoughts with more helpful and productive ones. This way, you’ll be able to look at difficult situations clearly and respond to them more effectively.

To better explain how CBT works, we’ll share a quote from Donald Meichenbaum, one of the founders of CBT: “[We ask] ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions. ‘Why’ questions are not very productive.” Instead of asking why you feel a certain way about a situation, CBT counselors will focus on your current behaviors and thoughts. For example, if you fear heights, you’ll learn how to lessen your fear of them.

The Length of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is known as short-term therapy, completed in anywhere from five to 20 sessions. You’ll determine with your counselor how many sessions will be beneficial for you. This will usually depend on how fast you progress in therapy, how much support you have from loved ones, how much stress you have, how severe your symptoms are, and how long you’ve been dealing with your conditions.

Steps of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT usually follows four steps:

  • Pinpoint difficult conditions or situations in your life: These may range from grief, divorce, a career change, or having a medical condition or mental illness. Talk with your therapist about which goals and situations you want to focus on.
  • Be aware of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors about these conditions: After you have pinpointed which life situations you want to focus on, your mental health counselor will ask you how you feel about them. Your discussion may involve how you interpret the meaning of a situation, your beliefs about yourself and others, and looking closer at your “self-talk,” or what you tell yourself about an event or occurrence.
  • Recognize any inaccurate or negative thoughts and beliefs: At this point, your counselor will most likely ask you to closely observe your behaviors and ways of thinking toward these situations. This is done so that you can recognize which thought patterns may be part of your problem.
  • Change these negative thoughts and beliefs: This step is probably the hardest since you might have been thinking the same way about things for a long time. Once you have identified your behavioral and thought patterns, your counselor will ask you whether these views are based on fact or just an incorrect perception of each situation. It’s going to take a lot of practice to change how you perceive conditions and problems. Over time, more helpful ways of thinking will come naturally to you.

What Does CBT Homework Involve?

While you are in CBT, your counselors will assign you homework in between sessions. For CBT to be successful, you must do these homework assignments so that you can apply what you’ve learned outside of therapy. A standard CBT assignment can include: 

  • Keeping a journal of your emotions and thoughts
  • Reading a book that relates to your situations
  • Completing a worksheet which focuses on a certain area of growth
  • Practicing relaxation exercises
  • Looking for real-world situations in which you can apply your new way of thinking 

If someone has depression, they may have negative “self-talk” in which they criticize themselves often. Homework for this person might include practicing “thought stopping,” in which he or she internally yells “Stop!” whenever a negative thought crosses the mind. Afterward, they direct their thoughts to something more positive, like meditating or a motivational quote. This may be practiced every day until the following session.

Benefits of CBT

Since CBT is a short-term therapy, it can help members deal with life challenges quickly and effectively. It is also structured, which is good for people who like routines. It can also treat many different issues and disorders. CBT can help you overcome trauma related to sexual or domestic abuse, and it can also teach how to positively manage your emotions. People who have completed CBT have learned how to cope with medical conditions or the loss of a loved one, and they’ve also been able to treat mental illness when medication hasn’t worked.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been known to treat the following conditions:

Good Candidates for CBT

People who have specific problems that they want to solve are good candidates for cognitive behavioral therapy. Those who also have self-discipline and can complete homework outside of sessions might also find CBT beneficial. 

Even though there are many benefits to cognitive behavioral therapy, it might not work for everyone. Everyone is different, and certain people may require different kinds of treatment. It all depends on your situation. Some people may want longer therapy sessions with deeper thinking and insight. Be honest with your counselor if you feel like CBT is not a good solution for you. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): What’s the Difference?

Although CBT and dialectical behavior therapy have similar names, they are somewhat different. DBT is a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy, and it enhances the latter’s effectiveness. While CBT focuses on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, DBT looks at how a person interacts with others in relationships and different environments. Counselors who practice DBT feel that some people react to relationships more intensely than the average person does. Another component of DBT that sets it apart from CBT is its use of group sessions. 

DBT was originally designed to specifically treat borderline personality disorder, but it is now used to treat a variety of mental health disorders and addictions.

How to Get the Most Out of a CBT Session

  • Be honest and open with yourself and your counselor: Any kind of therapy, including CBT, is only as good as you make it. You will get as much out of it as you and your counselor put into it. Your success in CBT depends on how willing you are to share thoughts and feelings in your sessions. However, it’s normal to feel insecure about opening up to your counselor since it might bring up painful emotions. You may also be afraid of how he or she will react to hearing about certain events in your life. If you ever feel like this, let your counselor know if you’re hesitant to share. 
  • Don’t expect results right away: Success doesn’t happen overnight. It can be difficult to confront deep-seated emotional issues, and it takes hard work and self-reflection. Don’t be surprised if you only start to see progress after several CBT sessions.
  • Stick with your treatment plan: You may want to skip therapy sessions if you feel like progress isn’t being made sooner, but you shouldn’t. Missing sessions will certainly detract your progress. By attending CBT regularly, you’ll be able to give thought to what you want to talk about.
  • Do your homework: Your counselor assigns you homework between sessions so that you apply what you learned in your sessions to real life. Make sure you complete your assignments so that you can keep up and make progress faster.
  • View your therapy as a partnership: You and your counselor are working together to get you to a better place mentally. When the two of you share in your decision-making process, your CBT will be more effective. Make sure you and your counselor are on the same page in terms of what issues you want to work on. By doing this, you can both observe your progress together and set common goals.
  • Let your counselor know if you’re not satisfied with CBT: Although CBT has helped many people overcome emotional issues, it isn’t right for everyone. If after several sessions you feel like this method of therapy isn’t getting you anywhere, let your counselor know. This is why it’s so important to be honest. You can find a different practice that may be better suited for your needs.

By giving your all to CBT, you’ll be able to see better results and get the most out of your sessions.

Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Sana Lake Recovery Center

Sana Lake Recovery Center has many counselors who are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. It has been known to help to treat addictions and mental health disorders. Once you complete your detox here, CBT will be one of the therapy options available to you. If you are ready to seek change in your life and kick your addiction, contact one of our representatives today. When you come to Sana Lake, you’ll find yourself again.

References:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610

https://www.self.com/story/9-things-you-should-know-about-cognitive-behavioral-therapy

https://psychcentral.com/lib/whats-the-difference-between-cbt-and-dbt/

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.