One of the most common forms of talk therapy that therapists use is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This type of therapy can go a long way in eliminating negative thinking and boosting positive thoughts and actions. Take a closer look at how CBT works, who can benefit from it and why it’s so helpful for those struggling with addiction.

patient talks to counselor in cognitive behavioral therapy

Understanding Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a one-on-one form of talk therapy conducted between a patient and a therapist. CBT is based on the fact that a person’s actions are greatly influenced by their personal thoughts and feelings. As a result, counselors use CBT to decrease negative thinking and increase positive thinking. This can lead to healthy changes. There are two primary elements of CBT: Functional analysis and skills training.

Functional analysis is the element of CBT that aims to identify some of the causes of negative thinking and behavior. For example, some people might feel inadequate because of a childhood experience. Patients may also have a history of trauma or have an undiagnosed mental illness, among other catalysts for negative behavior.

Through functional analysis, patients and therapists can also pinpoint some of the specific feelings and triggers that lead to negative actions. Hearing negative feedback from family members, feeling tired or lonely all might cause patients to experience an increase in cravings and a desire to relapse.

The second element of cognitive-behavioral therapy is skills training. This places an emphasis on unlearning old habits and picking up new, healthier routines. Patients who might have turned to drugs as a way to cope with stress in the past might replace that bad habit with a healthier alternative like cooking and eating a healthy meal, exercising or attending a support group.

The Goals of CBT

The ultimate goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to maintain sobriety and eliminate the risk of potential relapse. More specific goals include creating healthy habits, quieting or eliminating negative thoughts and improving the coping skills of patients. In accomplishing these goals, patients will be better equipped to handle cravings and temptations and increase their chance of lifelong sobriety.

Developing coping skills is one of the most valuable goals of CBT. Patients who don’t have the proper coping skills have a higher chance of relapse. Every patient needs different coping mechanisms, and therapy is the best way to determine what those might be.

Another goal of CBT is to help patients develop positive associations with actions or things other than drug use. In turn, they can then pursue these sources of pleasure and foster positive thinking without addiction.

Eliminating the All-or-nothing Mentality

A significant danger in the fight against addiction is the all-or-nothing mentality. This is when patients see themselves and their recovery in black and white. No person is perfect all of the time, and small slip-ups don’t have to lead to a downward spiral.

All-or-nothing thoughts are a form of negative thinking with dire consequences. If patients feel that they have to be perfect in order to lead a healthy life, then any errors make them feel like it’s no longer worth the fight.

Something as small as fighting with a family member or failing at a specific recovery goal can force patients to think that their journey to recovery is doomed. When this happens, relapse is likely. That’s why cognitive-behavioral therapy addresses negative thinking and tries to reframe mistakes as the small bumps in the road they really are.

At Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon, cognitive-behavioral therapy is just one tool we use in the fight against any of the following:

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