What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a type of talk therapy created in the 1960s. Unlike standard talk therapy, CBT focuses on both thinking and behavior, and is concerned with life in the present, not what happened in the past.

CBT is based on the idea that there is a powerful link between thoughts and feelings, and that many of life’s problems stem not from stressful events, but the meaning we attach to those events.

For most of us, negative thinking began in childhood. By the time we reach adulthood, our thought patterns are so well established that we aren’t even aware of their existence. CBT helps people identify destructive long-buried thoughts.

The goal of CBT is create a partnership between therapist and client. Together, distorted thinking is evaluated and problem-solving skills and strategies are devised to cope with difficult emotions in a more constructive matter.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction

For people who struggle with substance abuse disorders and addiction, CBT increases awareness of destructive thoughts and behaviors and the consequences that may result. Although CBT usually consists of one-on-one sessions, it is sometimes used in groups or family settings.

CBT, which may be used in conjunction with other forms of addiction treatment, can also address depression, anxiety, trauma or other issues that may be at the root of addiction.

Treatments can also help with insomnia, grief or loss, chronic pain, relationship problems or other stressful life situations.

What Happens in a CBT Session?

Cognitive behavioral therapy generally consists of one meeting per week, usually lasting an hour or less. Sessions are structured, usually beginning with a specific plan or topic for the day. CBT may involve a number of different techniques, such as journaling, mindfulness meditation, assertiveness training or various exercises to help the client become more aware of negative thought patterns.

Sessions generally include a brief discussion about the previous meeting and a plan for homework the client can do between sessions.

Does CBT Work?

Numerous studies suggest that CBT can bring about real change that continues long after therapy ends. CBT is of shorter duration than most other treatment methods, with improvements usually occurring in five to 10 months, or sometimes as soon as eight to 10 weeks.

Cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t a miracle and works only for people who are ready to engage in a collaborative partnership with the therapist, and willing to invest time and effort into weekly homework assignments.

How to Find a CBT Therapist

If you think cognitive behavior therapy might be helpful for you, ask your medical provider for a referral. If you struggle with substance abuse or addiction, most treatment centers and rehabs have CBT therapists on staff.

Make sure your therapist is licensed and certified, and that she has experience with your specific problem. Be open and honest with your therapist, and stick to the plan you both devise. Be patient. CBT works more quickly than most other treatments, but it still requires hard work and persistence.

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