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Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular method of psychotherapy used by mental health professionals. It is a form of talk therapy that is designed to help people adjust their behavior by changing unhealthy associations between their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

CBT is executed in a highly structured format. Typically, a certified mental health professional (usually a therapist or psychotherapist) will engage in a limited number of timed sessions with the patient. The goal of these sessions is to identify destructive thought patterns that result in a direct negative influence on emotions, actions, and behavior.

Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Now that we have a general idea of what CBT is, it’s time to discuss the most important question about it– how well does it work, especially for clients with a substance abuse disorder? The short answer is yes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven highly effective in treating a number of different mental health disorders, including people who present as having a substance abuse disorder.

Obviously, it doesn’t just work by magic. To be effective, CBT must be collaborative; the counselor and the patient must work together. In time, the patient learns to become their own therapist in identifying and modifying negative thought patterns.

CBT is a useful and effective tool in treating mental health disorders, particularly addiction. This is because CBT helps people learn how to cope with and manage stressful life situations, and addiction is often the result of unhealthy coping mechanisms or a response to traumatic experiences.

Various Approaches to CBT

CBT involves a range of different techniques that are designed to help individuals address their negative emotions and behaviors. CBT is most effective when tailored to an individual’s needs, personality, and thought processes. Thus, it is incumbent upon the counselor to identify which technique is best suited for each case.

Here are some of the approaches used in CBT:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – this method also identifies negative thought patterns and responses. It also uses strategies like mindfulness and emotional regulation as a way to change these negative behaviors.
  • Multimodal therapy – this approach treats negative psychological issues by addressing their distinct sources.
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – this approach identifies illogical beliefs, and seeks to challenge these beliefs through therapeutic intervention.

CBT and Addiction

CBT is effective in treating addiction because it helps individuals identify the nearly automatic negative thoughts that run through their mind when faced with stressful situations. Once identified, these thoughts can be modulated in a way that they become progressively less influential on the individual’s behavior.
This self-defeating type of thinking can arise from a number of different internal and external circumstances. In turn, these thoughts often lead to uncomfortable emotions and destructive behaviors.

Without help, most people with a substance abuse disorder will attempt to escape from this discomfort by returning their familiar using habits or ‘self-medicating.’ If this continues for too long, it can very quickly lead to mental and physical dependence.

Why is CBT So Effective in Treating Substance Abuse Disorders?

There are three ways that CBT can help individuals struggling with addiction:

1. Identify and dismiss insecurities and irrational thoughts that lead to addiction;
2. Practicing and refining effective communication skills to help with better self-expression;
3. Creating effective self-help methods to regulate thoughts, moods, and behavior.

In short, CBT eventually teaches the client to identify and intervene in the thought processes and behaviors that maintain the substance disorder.

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