Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) puts patients in control of their recovery by helping them to modify dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. For men and women suffering from substance use disorders, CBT often plays a vital role in building the foundation for a lasting recovery.
In CBT, the therapist is part teacher and part teammate. He or she provides education to help you better understand how your thoughts affect your behaviors and emotions, then works with you to create action plans that help you achieve your recovery goals.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a general term for a number of solution-focused therapies. Some specific subsets of CBT include:
- Behavior therapy (BT)
- Cognitive therapy (CT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
- Multimodal therapy (MMT)
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
CBT is incorporated into both group and individual sessions. Group therapy lets participants learn from the experiences of others, while individual sessions allow them to explore specific concerns in greater detail. Homework is often given between sessions to allow participants to practice applying CBT concepts and techniques to their daily lives.
How Thoughts Affect Behaviors and Emotions
Core beliefs are the deep-seated and often unchallenged beliefs a person has about themselves and the world around them. For example, someone with a substance use disorder may have the following beliefs:
- I don’t have what it takes to get sober.
- Life is boring without drugs and alcohol.
- I don’t deserve to be forgiven for my past mistakes.
- People don’t change, so I shouldn’t bother trying.
- I am a victim of my circumstances.
Core beliefs often fall into the following categories:
- Catastrophizing (believing the worst-case scenario is the most logical choice)
- Filtering (focusing on the negative aspects of a situation and ignoring the positive)
- Fortune-telling (thinking you can predict the future)
- Jumping to conclusions (making rash assumptions with no evidence)
- Mind-reading (thinking you know how others feel instead of asking them for their opinions)
- Overgeneralizing (taking an “all or nothing” approach to life)
CBT seeks to identify and analyze a person’s core beliefs. If core beliefs are inaccurate, the goal is to figure out where they came from and how to change them into something more productive. For example, someone who grew up in a home with an overly critical parent may have developed the assumption that they need to be perfect to be worthy of love. Taking the time to notice how others deal with small mistakes and practicing forgiveness can help change this core belief into one that’s more conducive to the recovery process.
Triggers, Behaviors, and Rewards
Cognitive behavioral therapy often refers to the habit loops that control our daily lives. In a habit loop, there is a trigger, a behavior that reacts to the trigger, and reward that reinforces the behavior. These loops can be positive, such as eating because you are hungry and experiencing the sensation of fullness as a reward. However, habit loops can also keep people trapped in a cycle of drug and alcohol use.
Breaking the habit loop requires finding new ways to deal with triggers. For example, it’s common for people with substance use disorders to want to drink or do drugs when they are upset because the high they experience makes them feel better about themselves. A more positive habit loop could involve getting natural endorphins by running or engaging in some other enjoyable form of exercise.
CBT techniques that break destructive habit loops start to rewrite neurons in the brain. Over time, this promotes healthier decision-making in all aspects of a person’s life.
Journaling and CBT
Journaling is often recommended as part of cognitive behavioral therapy because the act of writing down thoughts helps encourage a person to look at the situation more objectively. The journal also provides evidence of growth and change over time, which increases the ability to critically evaluate thought patterns in regards to future recovery goals.
Benefits of CBT in the Recovery Process
When used as part of an evidence-based treatment program, cognitive behavioral therapy offers a number of benefits. It can:
- Help you better understand the consequences of continued substance abuse
- Identify situations that put you at a high risk of relapse and help you develop a plan to avoid these triggers or minimize their effects
- Promote greater self-awareness and show you how to cope with painful emotions without turning to drugs and alcohol
- Enhance your self-esteem and show you how to be proactive in your recovery journey
- Address needs related to a dual diagnosis, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD
Waypoint Recovery Center’s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment center provides a full continuum of care for clients, including CBT, 12-Step support, medication-assisted treatment, and holistic therapies. If you’re ready to take control of your life and discover the possibilities that sobriety has to offer, we can help.