What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy commonly used in the treatment of mental health and addiction disorders, is a form of critical thinking that involves examining feelings and behaviors. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), examining and identifying personal behaviors that lead to addiction and other self-destructive tendencies allows those in treatment to better cope and address such patterns. In general, CBT is used in combination with other treatments to help manage a wide range of mental and physical symptoms. In fact, recent studies have linked CBT to reduced suicide attempts among military personnel and to reduced instances of insomnia and pain in those with knee osteoarthritis. CBT has long been renowned for its efficacy, and today is a crucial element of effective comprehensive treatment in addiction recovery.

Understanding cognitive behavioral therapy

According to the Mayo Clinic, CBT can improve numerous mental health disorders including depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, substance abuse disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders, among others. Reputable rehabilitation centers favor CBT because it quickly allows those in treatment to identify negative behavioral patterns. CBT is conducted between a therapist and patient, and NAMI notes that the therapist will generally focus on identifying and solving problems that influence an individual’s addiction. The patient often writes down thoughts to better identify behavioral patterns that may contribute to their disorder(s).

The Mayo Clinic points out the importance of finding a skilled psychotherapist and thoroughly checking his or her credentials beforehand. Though sessions may bring up challenging emotions, learning to cope with the underlying causes of addiction is critical to long-term recovery. CBT is incredibly useful because as those in treatment learn to identify behavioral patterns, it can physically alter and improve brain activity, according to NAMI. For this reason, CBT can be remarkably effective in long-term relapse prevention.

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How cognitive behavioral therapy is used in treatment

CBT will vary depending on the individual’s disorders and specific problem areas. For example, when a therapist uses CBT with a patient struggling with an anxiety disorder, examining the source of the panic will be of utmost importance, whereas a patient in treatment for alcoholism would examine what behaviors are most likely to encourage him or her to drink. The therapist and patient work together to develop methods for identifying and coping with these behavioral patterns so the patient can better address and avoid situations that would catalyze symptoms of the disorder.

Before attending the first therapy session, a patient should consider what concerns he or she wants to discuss with the therapist. The therapist will gather information to build a more comprehensive profile of a patient’s physical and mental health, then in collaboration with the patient use this information to develop goals for addressing specific problems. Remember that the first meeting is also an opportunity to learn more about the therapist, and that building a trusting therapist-patient relationship takes time. In some cases, a patient may need to work with several therapists before finding one with which he or she feels most comfortable.

Alta Mira Recovery has a team of distinguished therapists that utilize CBT as an aspect of the program’s more comprehensive care. After leaving a residential rehabilitation facility, Alta Mira can connect alumni with renowned specialists to provide continuing care.

Why CBT works

The concept of mindfulness lies at the center of CBT and is one of the reasons it has proved to be such a successful method of treatment. Psychology Today notes that the general idea of mindfulness has been around for millennia, but that the structured system of CBT is what makes it such a breakthrough in therapy. Moreover, the source points out that over the past few decades CBT has been empirically tested so it can be refined, and that such examination not only highlights the benefits of the treatment method, but also allows therapists to hone the effectiveness of CBT. Similar to mindfulness-based relapse prevention, CBT allows patients to consistently identify negative behavior patterns and consciously choose to avoid them. Overall, the wide-ranging research speaks for itself and CBT continues to be one of the most respected methods in the clinical treatment of mental health disorders.