“Therapy” is an awfully vague word. Sure, we all think we know what it means, but for those who have never experienced it, that knowledge of therapy comes largely from popular culture. So our shared ideas about therapy may have some connection to reality but probably don’t give us the complete picture.
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Indeed, it would be hard to get the complete picture from Peanuts, where Lucy offers questionable psychiatric care (admittedly at a fantastic price), New Yorker comics, and therapy as portrayed in sitcoms.
One of the most important things to know about therapy in the real world is that it is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. There are a variety of different therapeutic approaches that can be effective for helping with a range of different problems. One option that can be effective for people in recovery from a substance use disorder is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Let’s take a closer look at CBT and how it can help support your sobriety.
Digging Into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is focused on the intertwined relationships between your feelings, thoughts, and actions. The idea is that when we understand how those three things are connected, we are better able to find solutions to issues and problems we are currently facing.
Indeed, that is one of the key attributes of CBT: it is firmly focused on current problems you are facing. Structured and goal-oriented, CBT is generally limited to 12 to 16 sessions (which means it can be completed as part of a rehab program when appropriate). Again, the idea here is to find solutions to immediate issues, so months or years of sessions are not required.
For some individuals, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)—a variation on CBT—can also prove helpful. DBT adds mindfulness, acceptance, and distress tolerance to the ideas, skills, and techniques associated with CBT.
CBT Involves a Two-Pronged Approach
At the heart of cognitive behavioral therapy are two key components: functional analysis and skills training. Admittedly, those both sound like things you would learn about in a special training session at your job, but they are, in fact, central to the effectiveness of CBT.
Functional analysis simply means trying to figure out the cause (or causes) of a difficulty (or difficulties) you are wrestling with. Knowing the primary cause of a problem is the first step toward solving that problem.
So, for example, if you are struggling to maintain your sobriety, it is important to consider what is causing the difficulty. Is it stress at work? An unresolved relationship? Boredom? Once you pin down the cause, you can find ways to address it.
And that’s where skills training comes into play. Skills training is centered on identifying and developing healthier approaches to solving problems by addressing the foundational issues revealed through functional analysis. That’s a long-winded way to say: once you know what the problem actually is, you need to develop the skills to effectively address that problem.
This approach to addressing immediate issues can have a lasting impact as it helps you develop resilience, a trait that serves those in recovery very well.
What to Expect in CBT
Everyone’s experience of cognitive behavioral therapy will be different because every individual and situation is different. But here are the kinds of activities you might expect as part of CBT if you are a person in recovery:
- Taking the time to seriously reflect on what you see as the pros and cons of continuing to use drugs or alcohol
- Careful consideration and identification of situations that might tempt you to start using drugs or alcohol again—and making a plan to avoid those situations
- Becoming more skilled at self-monitoring so that you can spot cravings as they arise—and developing a plan for dealing with those cravings
- Developing an awareness of your patterns of self-talk, how it impacts your recovery, and strategies for making your inner narrative more positive so that it supports—rather than undermines—your sobriety
You Can Get Started With CBT at French Creek Recovery Center
As we have noted, cognitive behavioral therapy can be part of rehabilitation at a treatment facility like French Creek Recovery Center. We are committed to evidence-based, personalized treatment for substance use disorders, and that means we will listen carefully so that we can create the best treatment plan for your specific needs. CBT can be effective in both individual and group therapy settings, and can help address co-occurring mental health disorders as well as substance use disorders and recovery.
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, French Creek Recovery Center can help. We are dedicated to helping you build a firm foundation that provides ongoing support of your sobriety.