CBT: The Very Basics

CBT: The Very Basics

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a goal-oriented treatment modality that explores the relationship between thought patterns, emotions and conduct. The premise is that irrational beliefs and maladaptive thoughts can lead to self-destructive behaviors. While each individual has different needs, CBT goals might include challenging negative perceptions, analyzing impulsive thoughts and learning to view situations more favorably.

Although behavior-based therapies first emerged in the 1920s, Albert Ellis’s rational emotive behavioral therapy became the first widely known modality in the 1950s. In the following decade, new modalities spawned what the 2010 Handbook of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies called a cognitive revolution, and CBT officially entered the public mainstream in the 1980s with David Burns’ book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Though the therapy was initially applied to mental health and personality disorders, addiction therapists began to apply CBT in the early 1990s after the National Institute on Drug Abuse confirmed its efficacy with numerous studies. CBT is now widely used in addiction and mental health treatment for the simple reason that it is extremely effective.

How CBT Works

CBT is based on the idea that negative thoughts produce negative feelings and motivate negative behavior, which cycles back to foster more negative thoughts. In turn, helping patients develop positive thoughts patterns can reduce negativity while fostering positive cycles of thought, emotion and behavior. In 2012, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMH) described this therapy as therapists and patients collaborating to address issues. In terms of drug or alcohol addiction, in 2005 the American Journal of Psychiatry noted the following ways that CBT can empower recovery:

  • Substance abuse is explained in a context of real-life antecedents and consequences
  • Potential positive and negative outcomes of untreated disorders are explored
  • Patients learn to identify situations, states or other cues that might trigger cravings
  • Coping skills are discussed to help people overcome high-risk scenarios
  • Strategies are developed to deal with setbacks, struggles and vulnerabilities

CBT can also help individuals in the following ways:

  • Examine any unmet emotional needs that may have motivated the negativity
  • Incorporate motivational strategies to help patients find personal reasons to change
  • Encourage patients to incorporate positive activities into their daily lives

Rehab centers often use CBT for people with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders. Such an approach is beneficial, because improved mental health aids addiction recovery, and less substance abuse improves mental health. In 2008, the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists added that variations of CBT may also be used. For example, dialectical behavioral therapy is an adapted modality that balances self-acceptance and the need to change, and it is sometimes preferred for patients with borderline personality disorder and/or a history of self-harm. In any case, the NAMH states that CBT improves neural activity and functioning, and in 2010 the Psychiatric Clinics of North America journal praised CBT for its long-term effectiveness.

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If you need help with addiction, depression or any other mental health issue, speak with one of our admissions coordinators now. They are available 24 hours a day to answer questions, provide information and to make recommendations about treatment. They can also check health insurance policies for benefits. Our helpline is toll free, so please call now to begin recovery.