Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There’s no question that how we think can have a huge impact on our behavior and mental wellbeing. Sometimes people think in ways that are unhelpful or counterproductive to living well. For example, people may think there are aspects of themselves that they’re unable to change, obstacles they’re incapable of overcoming or elements working against them to keep them from living their best life.

Thoughts like these can have a profound way of influencing one’s behavior and emotions, and even make a person dysfunctional. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help by directly confronting such thoughts and change them for the better.

What Is CBT?

CBT is a form of therapy that aims to confront and reconstruct a person’s irrational or negative beliefs. It’s a form of talk therapy, meaning it primarily involves talking through these issues and discussing their solutions. It begins by identifying what negative thoughts a person may have and determining whether they reflect reality or not. If not, there are strategies that can be used to overcome them.

CBT is often described as a results-based form of psychotherapy. It focuses on addressing a person’s thoughts and behavior in the present, rather than other forms of therapy that focus on a person’s past. It was developed in the 1960s by a psychiatrist named Aaron Beck. Since then, it has become a helpful tool for helping people with many issues including anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, severe mental illness and substance abuse.

How Does CBT Work?

CBT works by confronting one’s negative thoughts and emotions, helping people learn new patterns of behavior. The practice rests on a few basic assumptions about humans in general. It presupposes that psychological problems are based, at least in part, on faulty ways of thinking and unhelpful patterns of learned behavior. It allows people to learn better ways of coping with their problems and ultimately reduce their symptoms.

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To reach that point, there are a variety of strategies the psychiatrist and patient can use, such as:

  • Recognizing what patterns in a person’s thoughts are disrupting their lives and reevaluating them
  • Learning to develop great confidence in one’s abilities
  • Learning to better understand the behavior and motivations of others
  • Using problem-solving skills to find solutions
  • Learning to calm and relax one’s body
  • Using role-playing to address potentially problematic interactions
  • Confronting one’s fears
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Deciding which strategies to use largely depends on the individual in question and the specific behaviors they’re trying to change. Typically, the therapist and patient will work together to recognize which patterns of thought and behavior need to be addressed and how to address them.

How CBT Can Help

One of the most significant ways in which CBT can help a person is by confronting thoughts that feed a person’s anxiety, depression or other feelings that lead to harmful behavior. This extends to alcohol abuse and substance abuse, especially for someone whose mental or emotional condition has

exacerbated their addiction. Many people who have the desire to change their addictive habits still have trouble with thoughts and feelings that do not reflect reality. Thoughts that may or may not be directly related to their substance misuse. In other words, using CBT to treat a person’s psychological problems can also have positive results in drug or alcohol addiction recovery.

What’s especially relevant is that CBT applies to those with a dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, which include some kind of substance abuse. The idea is that substance use disorder is created or made worse in response to other disorders such as anxiety or depression. Because these kinds of issues can cause unrealistic or unfair negative thoughts, they may trigger someone into drinking or using drugs. As a result, it is essential to treat these issues in order to help someone recover from their addiction.

Evidence-Based Therapy

CBT is a form of analytic therapy and part of what’s known as the third wave of behavior therapy. These kinds of therapy are distinguished by their focus on mindfulness, acceptance and living in the moment. Other examples include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT.) These therapies have become increasingly more popular since the end of the last century after accumulating enough scientific study to be recognized as a form of evidence-based therapy. This essentially means that thousands of patients have already gone through these treatments, and their results have been thoroughly analyzed. The advantage of evidence-based procedures, like these, is that they offer a more substantial expectation to their participants. In other words, the results speak for themselves.

CBT is just one of several therapy options we offer at Cliffside Malibu. Just as every person is unique, every recovery requires a unique treatment strategy, including a form of therapy that works well for them. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, then CBT may be part of the treatment plan to overcome addiction for a lifetime.

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