What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, known as CBT, is a goal-oriented form of psychotherapy.
As a talk therapy, CBT takes a hands-on approach to help patients become aware of negative self-talk and other self-destructive behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help treat a wide range of issues, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems to drug and alcohol abuse. It is also used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.
How Does CBT Affect the Brain?
CBT’s chief characteristic is the ability to change people’s attitudes and destructive behaviors by focusing on their thoughts, images, beliefs, and attitudes. This is also known as a person’s cognitive processes. After treatment, CBT patients understand how these processes relate to how they behave, how they deal with emotional problems, or what makes them susceptible to substance abuse.
Alone or in conjunction with other forms of mental health treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy gives patients the insight and understanding to handle stressful life situations and abstain from self-harming behaviors.
CBT sessions are structured, employing a formulaic approach to helping patients recognize inaccurate and harmful patterns of thought. CBT patients can expect to emerge from treatment with a new awareness of what they think and their beliefs. With this knowledge, effective CBT allows the patient to approach challenging situations with a clear, rational mind and respond beneficially.
A Brief History of CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy was invented by psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960s. While performing psychoanalysis, Beck observed that patients tended to be subject to a negative internal dialogue monologuing, almost as if they were talking to themselves during analytical sessions.
However, when prompted, they would only report a fraction of the details of this thinking. Beck realized that the link between thoughts and feelings was crucial to personal development. Beck coined the term automatic thoughts and used it to describe the intensely emotive thoughts that bounce through the mind.
More importantly, Beck found that people weren’t always fully aware of these thoughts, but they could learn to identify and report them with the right cognitive training.
If a patient felt disheartened in some way, he observed the thoughts were usually negative, unhelpful, and not based in reality. Beck theorized that identifying these harmful thoughts was paramount to the client’s understanding of their unique difficulties and working to address them. Thus, cognitive behavioral therapy was born.
Effective Use of CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat a wide variety of behavioral issues. It has even become the preferred form of psychotherapy for mental health patients and recovering addicts in recent years. Due to its structured approach, the outcomes tend to be immediate and help patients quickly identify and cope with personal challenges.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help with emotional challenges:
- Manage mental illness
- Prevent a substance abuse relapse
- Prevent a severe mental health relapse
- Treat mental illness in instances when medication is ineffective
- Adeptly cope with stressful and changing life situations
- Resolve conflicts and become a better communicator
- Cope with deep feelings of grief and loss
- Overcome deep-seated emotional traumas
- Cope with a medical diagnosis
- Manage chronic pain or the emotional side effects of chronic illness
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can improve symptoms related to:
- Substance use disorder
- Alcohol use disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar depression
- Sexual disorders
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used in tandem with different forms of therapy or medication can create a much more significant effect on the patient.
What to Expect from CBT
Supporters of cognitive behavioral therapy believe that positive transformation of core beliefs and behaviors is possible by changing thought patterns. In the case of substance abuse treatment, CBT is beneficial. Drug abuse, after all, is a self-harming behavior.
Addicts often turn to drugs or alcohol because of misguided feelings. Moreover, addiction and other mental health disorders are the results of deeply-ingrained dysfunctional thought patterns.
During cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist will encourage a discussion about feelings and troubles. Based on a detailed analysis, the therapist will devise an approach that addresses the issues at hand, directing the client towards the desired outcome.
Patients can expect the following with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
- Mental health conditions will be assessed
- Learn how to interrupt patterns of negative self-talk
- Confront self-defeating, unrealistic beliefs
- Achieve healthier levels of self-awareness and self-esteem
Be aware that there are no miracle cures when it comes to addiction recovery. However, CBT is a powerful aid in recovery. It will give the patient power to cope with life’s challenges and roadblocks to recovery in a healthy and informed manner.
To get the most out of CBT, the patient must remember to:
- View therapy as a partnership
- Be open and honest
- Be devoted to the treatment plan
- Set realistic expectations and remember there are no quick fixes
- Don’t be afraid to tell the therapist the treatment isn’t working
If a patient enters cognitive behavioral therapy with the right mindset, it is a powerful force and foundation for recovery. CBT will help to set negative thought habits aside and make room for a positive and worthwhile life.