Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered by many to be the “gold standard” treatment approach for substance use and mental disorders, including eating disorders. It has also been found effective for the treatment of attention deficit disorder, insomnia, and chronic pain.
How Does CBT Work?
CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach designed to help patients change negative thought patterns underlying adverse behavioral, emotional, and physical conditions. CBT helps patients recognize their “hot thoughts” linked to negative emotions and behaviors and learn how to shift to healthier responses instead.
The philosophy behind cognitive behavioral therapy is that a person’s thoughts about an experience or event powerfully drive their emotional, behavioral, and physical responses. With CBT, the patient and therapist work together to identify thoughts and emotions adversely impacting the patient’s life, and explore how to fuel positive change.
During each session, the CBT therapist uses various techniques to help each patient recognize personal triggers that lead to unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors, as well as developing coping mechanisms to better manage those triggers.
Techniques associated with CBT may include use of:
- Red Flag Thoughts
- Fear Ladders
- Thought Records
- Core Beliefs
- Depression/Anxiety Inventories
- Guided Relaxation
CBT for Addiction and Mental Health Issues
The goal of CBT is to help patients better identify dysfunctional behavioral patterns in their lives, and understand how those patterns contribute to substance and mental use disorders. Once they have identified these behavioral patterns, along with associated thoughts, beliefs, and emotions, patients can use CBT to learn to manage or change these behaviors in a positive way.
Those with an addiction or mental illness learn that even if they can’t change their circumstances, they can control how they think and react to them. This makes CBT a valuable tool for relapse prevention.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that CBT is an effective tool for those struggling with addiction, helping them explore “the positive and negative consequences of continued drug use, self-monitoring to recognize cravings early and identify situations that might put one at risk for use, and developing strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding those high-risk situations.”
CBT is a relatively short-term therapy, typically lasting from five to 20 weeks, with patients attending sessions once or twice each week.
The skills learned during CBT reinforce all aspects of a healthy life, helping patients to manage emotions in a positive manner, improve communication skills and relationships, manage symptoms of mental or physical illness, cope with loss and grief, and prevent relapse of substance and mental use disorders.
CBT Effectively Treats Co-Occurring Mental Disorders and Addiction
For those with alcohol and substance use disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on how self-sabotaging thoughts and the resultant negative behaviors contribute to addictive behavior. Patients learn to confront and develop healthy ways of processing destructive thought patterns so they can succeed in recovery.
Addiction and mental health disorders often co-occur (also called dual diagnosis). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 9.2 million adults in the U.S. experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2018. While either disorder may present first, each worsens the symptoms of the other.
Depression, hopelessness, and other negative mental health symptoms often accompany a mental disorder and can fuel the desire to “self-medicate” with alcohol or drugs. Likewise, addictive substances can cause dysfunction in brain chemistry, affecting mood, thoughts, and behavior, contributing to mental health disorders.
Studies find CBT to be highly effective for the treatment of co-occurring disorders. Depression, anxiety, underlying trauma, and other mental health issues are often present with both substance use disorders and mental health disorders. It’s important for co-occurring disorders to be treated concurrently, and CBT is an effective therapeutic tool to accomplish that goal.
Recognizing and reframing negative emotions is key to a successful recovery. Once patients understand how underlying thoughts are driving their addictive behavior, they are better equipped to break the cycle.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy At StoneRidge Centers
At StoneRidge Centers, we combine the best in established, trusted practices like CBT, with the latest scientifically-backed approaches for the treatment of mental health and addiction challenges. We go far beyond the typical treatment experience by pairing clinically rigorous evidence-based treatment with a plan of care informed by brain science. Our triple-board-certified medical director oversees all aspects of our program.
Contact StoneRidge Centers today to learn more about our treatment programs and find out how we can help you or a loved begin a journey of healing.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.