What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Know What to Expect

After taking the first step toward recovery with detox, getting to the root cause of addiction is next. This step involves combinations of therapies, most notably cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). People might ask, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” if it’s their first time in rehab. Getting a proper answer can help them prepare for the sessions to come.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Two women on a sofa discussing what is cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction treatment.The answer to, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” is complex yet not too difficult to understand. It’s a short-term treatment that focuses on setting and achieving goals. The premise behind CBT is that changing how people think in situations changes how they act and feel during them. It focuses on how these aspects relate to how people deal with everyday problems.

CBT methods aim to change the negative thinking, actions, and feelings that cause or support an addiction. Therapists use various practical, hands-on techniques to meet the needs of each client.

Along with addiction, therapists can use CBT to treat other problems. Some of these include anxiety, depression, relationship issues and trouble sleeping. CBT is very useful for people with co-occurring disorders such as addiction and another mental illness. It can treat multiple conditions at the same time.

CBT Advantages

Getting the answer to, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” also involves its advantages. There are two main benefits that CBT provides.

One main advantage is that it’s usually short. Most people only need five to 10 months of sessions to overcome emotional issues. It allows people to make progress more quickly than other therapy types. However, CBT can extend for as long as patients need it.

The second main advantage is that it combines behavioral and psychotherapy approaches. Behavioral therapy prioritizes the connection between people’s thoughts, actions, and problems. Psychotherapy centers around thinking patterns and the personal meaning that people place on things.

Essential CBT Features

Another part of answering, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” is the features that the treatment has. Since it’s a short-term therapy, it’s essential that therapists build trust with the patients from the very beginning. They also need to demonstrate understanding, share the concept of the therapy and collaborate.

A focus on solving current problems is another feature of CBT. The purpose is to reduce distress and other symptoms that impair the patient’s ability to function. Because of this, CBT ignores the recent past issues and makes early learning experiences a priority.

Also answering, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” therapists don’t assume that a given problem has one cause. They also don’t assume that successful treatment requires identifying the cause. They recognize that environments, genetics and family dynamics affect the development of addiction. Because of this, they use different approaches for each patient and each disorder.

The integration of a scientific perspective is the final feature of CBT. Together, therapists and patients collaborate to examine thoughts and actions. They test maintaining these aspects versus changing them to determine the actual consequences or benefits.

CBT Structure

When people question, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” most of them want to know the structure. Knowing how the sessions progress helps them understand what to expect when they go into each session.

In general, CBT sessions occur once a week and last for about one hour. People with addiction may receive CBT during outpatient or residential treatment at rehab centers. It follows a structure to make sure that therapists and patients cover what they need to within the allotted time. However, the format and material that they cover depend on the patient’s needs.

For example, most therapists break up CBT sessions into 20-minute sections. They discuss the time between the previous session during the first 20 minutes. They also review the homework that they assigned for the week and listen to patient concerns.

For the middle section, therapists may open the current topic and relate it to the patient’s concerns. The final 20 minutes involves exploring the patient’s response to the topic and reviewing their plans for the coming week. They also assign new homework at this time.

The Importance of Homework

When people with addiction ask, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” it might surprise them to learn that it involves homework. Assignments are actually one of the main elements of CBT that promote patient progress. The purpose of CBT is to teach patients new skills so that they can effectively manage and solve their own problems. The homework allows them to practice these skills in everyday life.

The homework is practical and involves trying new thought and behavior patterns. Patients who are eager or want to complete these assignments seem to benefit the most. For example, people with depression might not want to participate in social activities. However, CBT can show them that trying such activities makes them feel better.

Common CBT Approaches

The techniques that therapists use are part of the answer to, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” To address the needs of each patient, therapists utilize several approaches in CBT. These techniques focus on different areas such as painful feelings and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

To address painful emotions, therapists teach patients how to accept and tolerate those feelings. Sometimes they also teach them how to change those emotions. Another technique is to provide relaxation exercises to reduce stress. Therapists also teach patients strategies to manage extreme emotional reactions.

To address unhealthy thoughts, therapists encourage patients to assess biased thoughts about themselves, others and the world. They also use mindfulness to help patients recognize that their thoughts affect their actions. Therapists emphasize strategies to promote more effective decision-making and problem-solving skills as well.

To address unhealthy behaviors, therapists teach patients how to stop avoiding certain situations. They teach them how to gain control of what they perceive as overwhelming situations. Therapists also provide new skills training, such as effective communication and social skills. They help patients plan or find activities that make their lives more enjoyable and fulfilling as well.

Is CBT Effective?

When some people ask, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” they may also want to know about its effectiveness. Strong scientific evidence shows that CBT is a very effective treatment for many mental health disorders, including addiction.

CBT can greatly reduce symptoms, and the benefits often last longer. In studies that follow up with people who complete CBT, fewer relapsed or needed to continue medications. This research shows that short-term CBT can be just as helpful as taking medication for two years. These findings also suggest that CBT brings about real change that does more than just make people feel better.

Find Out if CBT Is Right for You

With the answer to, “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?” you might wonder, “Is CBT right for me?” Although CBT can treat many types of problems, including addictions, it doesn’t work for everyone. You can find out if CBT may be the right treatment for you at Healing Springs Ranch. Along with CBT, we use various therapies in our residential treatment program, such as:

Don’t let drugs or alcohol dictate how you live. Get the addiction counseling you need to overcome this disease. Call us now at 866-656-8384. Let’s talk about how we can help you with our innovative healing therapies.

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