Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Definition, Uses, and Effectiveness

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps clients reframe negative patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions into positive and accurate reflections of reality. CBT has been shown to be highly effective at improving overall mental health and helping individuals struggling with substance use disorders. At Laguna Shores, we are committed to providing high-quality care in a safe and welcoming atmosphere where our clients can feel at home in their treatment and on the path to recovery. 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a specialized form of psychotherapy therapy that focuses on clients recognizing the links between their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to cope more effectively with stress. CBT is one of the most common and best-studied forms of mental health treatment. The goal of CBT is to challenge and reframe false or distressing thoughts and beliefs so that clients can live life with more confidence and ease while being able to think more clearly. 

How a Typical Session Works

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on solutions for the client by becoming aware of and changing harmful thoughts and patterns of behavior. This approach focuses less on resolving the wounds of the past and more on an individual’s current problems. It has been used to treat depression, anxiety, and addiction. For individuals struggling with a substance use disorder, CBT helps to identify the thoughts or circumstances that occur right before a person chooses to use a substance, also known as triggers. With the help of a therapist, clients develop insights into their own reactions and work to neutralize these triggers. CBT requires the individual to be an active participant in the process with initiative and commitment. 

Typically in sessions, individuals are given homework to help them to identify their harmful or negative thoughts and choose a positive or neutral thought instead. Individuals also focus on goals they would like to achieve in the therapy and are encouraged to keep a journal. 

Common questions that are asked in CBT are: 

  • Do I perceive things accurately and realistically?
  • What happens if I behave differently than I normally do in a specific situation?

Learning these new skills can help an individual in preventing relapse and continuing progress in recovery by improving their emotional regulation and decision-making. 

Effectiveness of CBT for Substance Use Disorder

There have been multiple studies done on the effectiveness of CBT for substance use disorders. These studies show that CBT is efficacious in producing positive patient outcomes when used in controlled trials as part of monotherapy or combined with other treatment strategies. 

In one study of individuals with cocaine dependence published in The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, researchers reported 60% of patients in the CBT condition remained substance-free at a 52-week follow-up. 

CBT treatment encompasses a variety of interventions for SUD, such as: 

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Contingency management
  • Relapse prevention
  • CBT combined with pharmacotherapy

Participants reported improvements in distress tolerance, goal achievement, emotional regulation.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy has many benefits and can help an individual: 

  • Prevent relapse with a SUD
  • Cope with stress more effectively
  • Manage emotions
  • Cope with grief and loss
  • Overcome trauma

In general, there are no known side effects or risks involved with cognitive behavioral therapy. An individual may experience slight discomfort at times, especially when challenging long-held negative beliefs. At Laguna Shores, our professional therapists are skilled in the CBT approach and are committed to creating a safe space for our clients while in treatment. 

Individual Treatment Regimen

There is no standard length of treatment for cognitive behavioral therapy. Sessions are typically weekly with a skilled therapist and an hour in duration. Individual treatment is focused on meeting the individual’s goals while exploring patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that are harmful or result from inaccurate depictions of reality. 

Participants who attend CBT are asked to: 

  • Attend sessions consistently
  • Set treatment goals
  • Practice the skills learned in treatment in their everyday lives

Some individuals may only need a few sessions of CBT, while others need treatment for several months. Treatment is personalized to meet the individual’s needs and goals. 

CBT as a Relapse Prevention Strategy

Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been effective in relapse prevention for individuals with substance use disorders. Individuals learn strategies and valuable techniques such as: 

  • Identifying triggers to avoid relapse
  • Refusal skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Identifying high-risk situations

When an individual can identify a high-risk situation from a CBT approach, they can practice an effective coping response that increases self-efficacy. Consciously choosing a new approach results in a decreased probability of relapse. When faced with a high-risk situation or a trigger, the individual can choose a new strategy learned from CBT, such as leaving a situation or positive self-talk.

According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, veterans who completed cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders found they were better at:  

  • Managing cravings and urges to use
  • Feeling more skilled at solving problems
  • Making a commitment to and maintaining sobriety

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), women participating in cognitive behavioral therapy for three months showed decreases not only in substance abuse but also in PTSD symptoms.

Laguna Shores Recovery Center is a residential and detox facility located in Orange County, offering specialized drug and alcohol detoxification programs to meet your needs along with medically assisted treatment to ease the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms. We believe in creating a space that feels like home and are committed to providing the highest quality of care and support. Contact Laguna Shores today at 866-934-5276.