Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Treatment of Addiction and Eating Disorders

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a primary tool that professional therapists use to address a number of disorders, including emotional and developmental problems that are often the underlying cause of addiction. This therapy has been widely studied and has proven time and again to be an effective way to change unreflected thought patterns that lead to difficult emotions and destructive behavior. CBT can be applied to a variety of problems, including personality disorders, depression, bi-polar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, sleep problems and eating disorders. It is also useful for managing stressful situations that arise in everyday life, including difficulties with work and relationships.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is also known as Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive Restructuring. In short, CBT is focused on how we think (cognition), and the way those thoughts direct our actions (behavior). For example, negative thinking and the resulting beliefs created by those negative thought patterns often lead to self-destructive behaviors. CBT involves modifying those negative thoughts, which are usually damaging and unrealistic, and replacing them with useful problem-solving skills and more realistic thinking patterns. CBT is a relatively short-term approach that usually requires no more than 12 to 18 weeks - much shorter than conventional psychotherapy, which can require months or even years.

How CBT Works

CBT is a down to earth, goal-oriented treatment, and therapists may use a variety of techniques and activities depending on individual needs, severity of the problem, education, level of stress and motivation. The process involves identifying negative thoughts, then challenging those thoughts to determine if they are valid. CBT is a partnership between the therapist and the client. With the guidance of the therapist, the client determines what he hopes to accomplish during treatment. The therapist serves as an educator and coach, helping the client to learn problem-solving skills and specific techniques to reach those predetermined goals.

CBT for Addiction

Initially, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was implemented to treat alcohol addiction and to prevent relapse. The techniques were highly effective and were eventually adapted for treating the abuse of other drugs. CBT helps addicted people gain strategies for coping with cravings, improving self-control, and recognizing triggers that may lead to relapse, such as boredom, fatigue, anger, frustration, or even happiness and other positive emotions. Various techniques are practiced and repeated until the new skills are mastered and become second nature. Often, clients experience great relief when using these new skills, they might experience, for the first time in their lives, that they are no longer powerless over their emotions and their addiction related self-destructive behaviours.

CBT is rarely a stand-alone treatment. In most cases, it is used in conjunction with traditional types of therapy, complementary therapies, family therapy, and in some cases, pharmacotherapy.

CBT-e for Eating Disorders

CBT-e is an enhanced form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy adapted for eating disorders. CBT-e is a highly individualized approach that involves identification and stabilization of the disorder, development of goals, learning strategies for changing disordered thinking, and plans for the future, including maintaining positive changes and coping with setbacks. Patients learn to cope with damaging thoughts and obsessions about body images and how to replace unhealthy dietary habits with healthy eating patterns. Duration of treatment is sometimes longer and may require 20 to 40 weeks, depending on the severity of the problem. Family or significant others are often successfully involved in treatment.

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