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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

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Mother and Daughter Wondering What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Many rehab centers adopt the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to treat addiction. However, not everyone believes that this treatment method is effective. In the realm of alternatives, there's one popular method. Although many people have heard of it, they often ask, "What is cognitive behavioral therapy?"

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured, time-sensitive form of psychotherapy that helps people change unhealthy thought processes and behaviors.

CBT focuses on the concept that a person's thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are all connected. Consequently, negative thoughts and feelings can trap individuals in a vicious cycle.

Therapists commonly use CBT to treat emotional health conditions such as depression or anxiety. However, they can also use it to treat other mental and physical health problems.

During addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy can help clients solve current problems and teach them how to change adverse thoughts, feelings and actions. Individuals can use their newfound skills to help them throughout life and prevent relapse.

CBT tends to focus on making behavior changes, which some people have found successful. However, it doesn't typically address the underlying core mental and emotional issues that cause the behavior.

CBT Theory

Those who ask, "What is cognitive behavioral therapy?" may be curious about the theory behind it. The basis of CBT is that the way people grasp situations influences how they act and feel.

For instance, some people who walk past a storefront display might feel excited about what they see. However, others may get upset. It's not the window display itself that makes them feel this way. Instead, their thoughts influence a certain reaction.

People struggling with an addiction often have inaccurate perceptions. CBT helps them identify these patterns and evaluate the reality of their thoughts. During the process, they learn to change how they think, which improves how they feel and act.

CBT Components

CBT integrates two key components. Functional analysis helps therapists and clients identify high-risk triggers that can lead to drug use. Knowing these triggers allows people to avoid them. Therapists usually ask a series of questions to help patients identify these triggers.

Basic skills training helps patients change unhealthy habits by substituting them with healthier activities. They also improve how patients tolerate negative feelings such as anger and depression. Furthermore, the skills help them identify and cope with urges to use drugs.

CBT Session Structure

When answering, "What is cognitive behavioral therapy?" many therapists give an example of its structure.

Patients usually go to about 16 sessions over the course of 5–20 weeks. However, the actual duration of CBT varies according to each patient's needs.

Although the sessions aren't the same for everyone, they follow a general guideline. The goal is to focus on and accomplish as much as possible within the typical 60 minutes.

For instance, the first 20 minutes may involve an assessment of the time between sessions. The assessment will include urges and triggers that patients experienced since the previous session. Therapists usually listen to clients' concerns. They also review the homework assigned at the end of the last meeting.

During the second 20 minutes, therapists introduce the current session's topic. As the discussion progresses, they relate the topic to the patients' current concerns.

The final 20 minutes involves exploring how the patients understand and respond to the topic. Therapists review the patients' plans and preparedness for possible triggers over the coming days. Then, they assign homework for patients to complete before the next session.

Pros and Cons of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Like most counseling strategies, CBT has pros and cons. While it can be helpful in treating some mental health problems, it may not be successful or suitable for everyone. Let's explore a few of the advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of CBT

  • CBT may be helpful in cases where medication alone hasn't worked
  • It can be completed in a relatively short period of time (5–20 wks) compared to other talk therapies
  • Since CBT is a structured program, it can be delivered in different formats, including 1:1 counseling, group counseling or sessions, books, or videos
  • It provides tools and strategies that apply to everyday life, even after completing treatment

Cons of CBT

  • CBT may not be appropriate for people with complex mental health or emotional health conditions
  • It may not be helpful for people with unresolved trauma
  • CBT doesn't address the deeper underlying core issues that drive faulty thinking and behavior in the first place
  • Since underlying core issues have not been addressed, the risk of relapse increases
  • It involves confronting emotions and anxieties, which can be uncomfortable for many

Get 12-Step Alternatives for Addiction Treatment at The Clearing

If you want an alternative treatment and a safe place to recover from addiction, The Clearing can help. We have a remote, 43 acre estate in San Juan Island, Washington.

While we don't employ CBT in our program, we do offer evidence-based therapies in combination with Spiritual Psychology to help you address the underlying core issues that cause addiction. Our counseling strategies include:

  • Person-Centered Therapy
  • Rational Emotive Therapy
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Family Systems

So, what is cognitive behavioral therapy? While it can be helpful for some, we believe there are more comprehensive approaches available. Dial 425-275-8600 to learn how The Clearing can help you overcome addiction for good.

Download E-Book Healing Core Issues

Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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