Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most highly effective treatment options for substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring conditions. It is a highly structured, science-based therapeutic approach that follows well-defined steps. Understanding CBT’s principles, assumptions, and procedures will prepare you to work more collaboratively with health professionals during sessions.
Principles and Assumptions of CBT
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was developed in the 1960s to treat psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. It has proven to be effective as a supplementary treatment method to medication. CBT has been adapted for use with children, adolescents, couples, and families.
The cognitive model behind this method emphasizes the interconnected nature of cognition, emotions, and behavior. For example, automatic thoughts may shape a person’s emotions and responses to events. These ingrained responses can cause cognitive distortions when the individual processes information influenced by thoughts and emotions. Following these cognitive distortions, an individual may be fed into a loop of behavioral changes, which can cause further distortions.
Mental health experts find that psychological issues are partly based on problematic thought patterns or core beliefs. As a result, encouraging clients to look closely at their thoughts and emotions may help them understand that irrationality. This is an “unlearning” process.
Common Cognitive Distortions
Believe it or not, many people harbor negative emotions simply because they have logical errors in their thought processes. These errors in the cognitive realm may lead to distorted or exaggerated conclusions about the self, others, and life.
For example, some people tend to develop a dichotomous thinking pattern. This is when the individual views things as black and white, leaving no room for a gray area. This may lead to problematic judgments about others and wreak havoc on relationships. Below are other examples of cognitive distortions:
- The tendency to overgeneralize and make sweeping conclusions
- The tendency to assume the thoughts and intentions of others
- The tendency to minimize positive aspects of life, allowing negativity to overshadow things
- The tendency to focus on the worst possible outcome leads to unfounded frustrations and worries
- The tendency to deflect blame and attribute responsibility for adverse outcomes
Common Erroneous Core Beliefs
Sometimes people develop mental health challenges because they have internalized certain core beliefs that aren’t in line with reality. These underlying beliefs may shape their perception of people and events in life. If they process information through an erroneous belief framework, it can create a web of problematic thought patterns.
Take poor self-esteem, for example. Low self-esteem is known to be a root cause of many mental health concerns. Behind this symptom are many dysfunctional core beliefs, including “I am unlovable” or “I am not good enough.” CBT addresses and corrects a range of flawed core beliefs to transform them into the following examples:
- An underlying belief in one’s self-worth
- A fundamental belief about the world as a place of possibilities
- A value system about how one will be rewarded in society
Main Areas of Cognitive-Behavioral Problems
A therapist may break the CBT process into a few main areas, including situations, thought patterns, emotions, physical feelings, and actions. The therapist will explain to the client how these areas are interconnected. They will not tell their client what to do. Instead, they will guide the individual to strengthen cognitive awareness and find the best solutions to curb distorted thoughts that lead to undesirable emotions and actions.
For example, therapists may ask clients about negative thought cycles related to strained family relationships. Perhaps they have long been dominated by a sense of failure, leading to depression and substance use. This progression results from feeling trapped in a negative cycle for which they blame themselves. A cognitive-behavioral therapist can help shift these thought patterns so the individual can accept that some relationships do not work out.
Finding the Right Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist
When an individual decides to begin cognitive-behavioral therapy, they may need to take some time to find the right therapist. Trust and collaboration are crucial in this process, and the therapist plays a vital role in making it happen. This can be time-consuming at times.
Not all therapists are going to be a perfect fit. A cognitive-behavioral therapist should be state-certified and licensed. Similarly, clients must feel comfortable and like a good fit with their therapist. A qualified cognitive-behavioral therapist may ask the client many questions for assessment purposes. These questions may involve intimate personal history, family history, and even past traumatic events. Their purpose is to help the client process these experiences and gain insight into how to respond in life. This is why it is critical to feeling comfortable sharing with one’s therapist. Individuals may need to try multiple therapists to find one that meets these qualifications.
Do you know why cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely used method in many addiction treatment centers? CBT combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy addresses a client’s problematic thoughts and mood. Behavioral therapy focuses on the client’s behaviors. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff understand the science behind addiction and emotions. We utilize evidence-based treatments like CBT and adopt an integrated approach to recovery. Laguna Shores Recovery will help you understand what to expect and how to get the most out of CBT sessions. We will walk alongside you to offer support and guidance. Our alumni programs include aftercare to connect you with a community of recovering individuals. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community and receive the treatment you need for healing. Call us at (954) 329-1118.
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