cognitive behavioral therapy

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Defining CBT for Addiction Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (otherwise referred to as CBT) is a cornerstone for treatment in many addiction treatment programs. Its primary use in this context is to help people learn how to identify negative thinking and create better ways to thoughtfully respond to circumstances in their lives.

We all interact with all aspects of our environments—choosing to respond as situations occur. However, in the life and mind of a person with an addiction, the responses are not always accurate. They tend to be distorted ways to understand the circumstances.

This understanding is created by automatic thought patterns that tend to be negative and flow from insecurities and self-doubt.

Thoughts Become Actions

These self-defeating thoughts turn into self-defeating behaviors. CBT comes into this space and helps individuals identify the harmful thought patterns. The goal is to help a person recognize the negative thinking and replace it with accurate alternate thought. Of course, this will influence the way a person acts.

CBT is a therapy that focuses on good thinking (cognitive) to create good actions (behavioral).

The Essence of Addiction

Addiction is a very practical disease. It moves in a person’s life in very real ways. It is a behavioral response to life. So CBT is very practical, as well. It has a skill focus—designed to be incorporated into practical life. That means that sessions typically move beyond individual counseling and have practical to-dos that are implemented into life. The focus is largely helping create strategies that empower clients to handle life’s stresses, anxieties, and struggles.

Cognitive Distortions

Since CBT helps confront the biased ways a person thinks about themselves and the rest of the world, it is important to identify some of the more common thought distortions. Psych Central has an expansive list of them, but here is a quick rundown with a short description for each:

  1. Filtering – focusing on only the negative and removing the positives of a situation.
  2. Polarized Thinking ­– also called black-and-white thinking: either we are perfect or we are a failure.
  3. Overgeneralization – something happened once, we believe it will always happen.
  4. Jumping to Conclusions – believing we know why people are treating us a certain way without any real understanding of a situation.
  5. Catastrophizing – exaggerating insignificant events and minimizing other actual significant events.
  6. Personalization – believing everything said or done is a reaction to us.
  7. Control Fallacies – being a victim of fate, or believing the happiness or pain of others depend on us.
  8. Blaming – holding other people responsible for our pain or circumstances.
  9. Shoulds – having a list of rules that everyone (including ourselves) must live by.
  10. Always Being Right – being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to great lengths to always prove how correct we are, even at the expense of others and their feelings.

There are more of these. But a quick read through, and one can see where these types of thoughts will quickly move from negative thinking into negative acting. The good news is that all of these can be overcome. Recognition of cognitive distortions and practicing accurate thinking are pivotal in helping people change their ways. And for a person with an addiction, it curbs the impending return to substances before the negativity gains too much momentum.

The Recovery Results

The good and sometimes challenging aspect of CBT for addiction treatment is the fact that it is not a quick fix. It is something to work through and put into practice, time and time again. The benefit of this is that it is a foundation for lasting recovery. It is something that stays with you through the ups and downs of sobriety and can become a reliable dose of reality when the false thinking begins to take over.

At First Steps Recovery you will find CBT in both individualized counseling and in group settings. Our goal is to help everyone who comes to us change their negative thinking so that full recovery permeates their actions. If you or a loved one are ready to take the step towards real recovery, please call us today: 1-844-489-0836.



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