Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a method of talk therapy or psychotherapy. It is a form of treatment that is commonly used during drug rehab because it helps people change their thought patterns and behaviors. It is extremely effective and it works for all types of addictions, depending on the person’s needs.
CBT may be combined with other forms of therapy as well. It works well in treating mental health disorders such as PTSD, eating disorders and depression as well as substance abuse. But people do not have to have a mental illness in order to benefit from it. Some people go to a therapist that offers this type of therapy simply to help them better manage their lives.
What are the Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
CBT is such a popular option for behavioral therapy for many reasons. Not only is it highly effective, but it targets specific challenges and goals people have during the recovery process. It does not require people to spend as much time in therapy, which makes it very attractive.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can also:
- Help people better manage the symptoms of their mental illnesses.
- Help them prevent a relapse back to substance abuse.
- Stand in the place of medications when that is not a good option.
- Learn new techniques for dealing with stress in their daily lives.
- Help people identify different ways of managing their emotions.
- Equip people to resolve conflicts in their relationships.
- Help people learn better forms of communication.
- Assist in coping with loss or grief.
- Help people overcome the emotional trauma that can be related to violence or abuse.
- Assist in managing some physical symptoms that can accompany mental illness.
Most experts agree that CBT works best when it is combined with an anti-depressant. But not everyone can take these medications, and it can work really well on its own as well.
Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Carry Any Risks?
Most people who receive CBT do not have any difficulty with their treatment. There is very little risk involved. But people can feel uncomfortable at times, and this is to be expected with any type of behavioral therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy causes people to explore their painful feelings, experiences and emotions. It is normal for people to cry, get angry or just feel upset in general when they are in treatment. It is a lot of mental work, and it is not uncommon for it to be physically draining as well.
Cognitive-behavioral therapists will often encourage their patients to confront their fears head-on. For example, people who are afraid of heights may be asked to work on that fear, and this can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, those feelings are only temporary, but they are a critical part of the recovery and healing process.
What Happens During the First CBT Session?
A patient’s very first session with cognitive-behavioral therapy is basically an opportunity for the therapist to get to know them. They will gather a lot of information about the patient and ask them what they would like to work on. They may ask about their mental health both currently and in the past. This gives them a better understanding of their situation and needs during treatment.
During the first session, the therapist will usually discuss other forms of treatment that might be complementary to CBT. They may suggest medications or other types of talk therapy. There is much to be learned during this initial session, and people will find out:
- What the therapist’s approach is like.
- What type(s) of therapy are right for them.
- What the goals of their treatment will be.
- How long each session will last.
- How many sessions will be needed.
The Progression of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
It can be challenging for people to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings; especially in the beginning of CBT. But the best therapists will be very patient and they will help people gain more confidence.
CBT uses a goal-oriented approach to recovery. There may be homework to do, such as reading assignments, worksheets or practical exercises. These are important because they help people build on what they have been learning during therapy. They can also help people apply everything they are learning to their daily lives.
CBT usually involves the following four steps:
- Identifying difficult situations in the patient’s life – This might involve diagnosing a mental health condition or recognizing grief, anger or a medical condition. The therapist will help the patient decide what issues should be focused on.
- Becoming aware of the patient’s thoughts and beliefs about these issues – Once the problems have been identified, patients are encouraged to share their thoughts. Journaling can be a great tool to use during this process.
- Identifying negative thought patterns – Therapists will encourage people to pay attention to their responses to various situations. The goal is to figure out which negative thoughts are contributing to the problem areas.
- Changing negative thought patterns – Therapists will talk with patients about their view of various situations in their lives and will challenge their perceptions of them. This can be a hard step to go through because it requires people to change the way they view different aspects of their lives.
What Can People do to Get the Most Out of CBT?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is most effective when the patient views it as follows:
- CBT is a partnership. The patient should be an active participant in therapy.
- Honesty is important. CBT will not work as well if the patient is not bluntly honest about their thoughts and feelings.
- Commitment to treatment is vital. Patients may not always want to go to therapy, but never missing a session is critical for success.
- Homework is a priority. Patients need to devote themselves to completing their homework and applying the principles they learn.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy is not a quick fix. It takes time to work on the issues people face, but if they are dedicated, they can be successful.