The underlying principle of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is that maladaptive thoughts lead to maladaptive emotions and behaviors.
You might disagree and say, “Sometimes I do stupid things without thinking.” The principle behind CBT is that your action—even if you regret it—did start with a thought. That thought, however, gave rise to emotions, and those emotions led to the behavior. At Journey, our therapists are highly skilled in using CBT, in both individual and group settings, to help clients develop a better understanding of how self-defeating thoughts prompt negative emotions, including anxiety, depression and anger, which contribute to drug use. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
How Does CBT Work?
Many social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals use CBT in their practices. Some prefer to work in individual sessions while others teach cognitive-behavioral techniques in groups. Unlike the psychotherapy you might see in the movies, this isn’t a “tell me how you feel” or “tell me about your week” modality. Instead, it is a structured approach complete with worksheets and homework, depending on the therapist and setting. The focus is on changing maladaptive thinking, with the understanding that changing that thinking will lead to a happier and more satisfying life.
Your CBT sessions will involve tracking down your thoughts. Often you’ll start at the end result—a behavior that happened that you now wish had not happened, such as a relapse. Your therapist will help you back-track from the event to the feelings that you were experiencing just prior to the event. For example, let’s imagine that you were feeling hopeless and depressed. Your therapist would then take you back one more step to help you identify the thoughts you had immediately prior to feeling depressed.
These are often “ah-ha” moments when you remember that you had been thinking about your ex, and had just heard that they had found someone new. Frequently buried in the thoughts about an ex are thoughts about your own self-worth. You may have been thinking “I’ll never be with anyone else because I’m ___________ (fill in the blank with whatever negative thought or belief you have about yourself). Those negative thoughts, memories and cognitions all added up to feeling depressed. But you can see how these are often not conscious, “top-of-mind” thoughts, but beliefs that lie below the surface. Nevertheless they are thoughts that color our emotions, which then impact our behavior.
In this example, once you’ve uncovered a core belief about being unworthy or unlovable, what then? How can you change that thought? Your therapist will help you to do so by using a number of possible techniques. One such technique involves identifying logical errors in your thought or belief, such as all-or-nothing thinking. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
Another technique involves exploring alternative thoughts that are not quite so negative. For someone who is struggling with a belief about being unattractive, for example, a CBT therapist might help him or her uncover one nice feature or positive attribute to substitute for “I am unattractive.” For example, “I look my best when I smile” is a substitute thought that will not necessarily lead to feelings of hopelessness or despair.
An Essential Tool in Addiction Recovery
CBT has been well-researched and proven to be highly effective for a wide range of problems. Once you learn them, you can use CBT techniques for the rest of your life, helping you to stay grounded and make good choices long after you leave treatment. CBT can be an indispensable tool in your recovery toolkit.