Skip to main content

When it comes to treating mental health disorders and substance use disorder (SUD), professionals often utilize a wide range of treatments and therapeutic approaches. Commonly, professionals will use evidence-based interventions to build a structure to a client’s treatment plan, then add complementary and holistic modalities to ensure that treatment is well-rounded and addresses the whole person. The most common type of evidence-based treatment is known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Meanwhile, those who are new to the treatment and recovery process may wonder what CBT is, as well as the role it can play in fostering lasting healing and success in recovery. 

At CCM, we provide holistic behavioral health solutions to individuals and families throughout the entire continuum of care. Following the use of treatment consultations, our intervention services at CCM connect clients with behavioral, mental, and substance use treatment, individualizing programs to meet the unique needs and recovery goals of each client we serve. Moreover, CBT is one of the many therapeutic approaches that our collaborative care professionals will utilize in treatment, as it has shown great promise in treating a wide range of symptoms, conditions, and disorders. 

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

A publication titled Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care explains, “What we think, how we feel and how we behave are all closely connected – and all of these factors have a decisive influence on our well-being.” This describes the basic principle behind therapy. 

The publication continues, stating that CBT combines two therapeutic approaches: Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. First, cognitive therapy is meant to help clients develop a clearer awareness of their thoughts, attitudes, and expectations. As the publication explains, “The goal is to reveal and change false and distressing beliefs, because it is often not only the things and situations themselves that cause problems, but the importance that we attach to them too.”

Next, behavioral therapy is grounded in the belief that human behavior is learned; thus, behavior can also be unlearned. In a similar way, this behavioral approach helps clients identify certain behavioral patterns in their lives as well as help them determine if these patterns are helpful or harmful. It also calls clients to commit to behavioral change and, in turn, implement new behavioral habits. 

Thus, CBT is a problem-oriented, yet goal-focused approach that focuses on both identifying current problems and developing solutions for them. Unlike other forms of talk therapy, CBT mainly focuses on overcoming current problems, although this sometimes requires reflecting on the influence of past events as well. 

Understanding the Cognitive Model

As stated in the publication titled Cognitive Behavior Therapy by authors Chand, Kuckel, & Huecker, “CBT is based on a straightforward, common-sense model of the relationships among cognition, emotion, and behavior.” Within this model, three aspects of cognition are addressed. 

The first aspect is automatic thoughts, which are thoughts and interpretations of events that appear immediately. Next, the second aspect is cognitive distortions, defined as harmful patterns of thought that lead individuals to erroneous conclusions. Finally, the third aspect is underlying beliefs or schemas, which are templates for information processing that shape an individual’s subjective perceptions and interpretations of events.

In CBT sessions, clients will work with professionals to identify automatic thoughts and underlying beliefs, as well as the presence of cognitive distortions (which are often prevalent in those with psychological disorders). While identifying these aspects of cognition, clients will also be encouraged to identify specific behaviors that they may engage in as a result of their thought patterns and processes. 

What Is CBT Used to Treat?

According to the aforementioned publication, since its development in the 1960s, CBT has been extensively researched as an effective evidence-based treatment modality for a wide range of mental health problems. Some of the most common diagnoses CBT treats include anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, mood disorders eating disorders, addiction, and substance use disorder (SUD). In addition, CBT can also be valuable for addressing problematic symptoms and experiences like anger problems, phobias, interpersonal conflict, intrusive thoughts, severe grief and loss, and chronic pain.

What to Expect in CBT Sessions

As mentioned previously, in treatment, therapeutic approaches are often individualized to address the unique needs and recovery goals of the client. This means that even the duration of treatment will be individualized and will often be adjusted over time depending on the treatment progress and satisfaction of the client. Some may participate in treatment for months, while others may only need a few sessions to effectively reap the benefits of this approach. 

That said, the structure of CBT sessions often remains the same, regardless of the duration of treatment. During an initial CBT session, a client will work with their therapist to determine current issues as well as short-term and long-term goals. A client will explain their current problems from their perspective, which will form the basis for curating an effective treatment plan. 

After expectations and goals are shared, a therapist may work with the client using a variety of tools and exercises to help challenge their problematic thoughts and associated behaviors. Some of the tools that therapists may use include, but are not limited to relaxation and mindfulness strategies, pain relief techniques, and problem-solving methods. 

One of the most important elements of effective CBT is a strong therapeutic alliance; that is, the quality of the relationship that a client has with their therapist and vice versa. A strong therapeutic alliance will ensure that the client and therapist are working collaboratively with mutual interest, which can be especially helpful in determining and meeting therapeutic goals.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment modality that is used to treat a wide range of conditions and symptoms. This type of therapy combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. First, cognitive therapy is meant to improve clients’ awareness of thoughts and attitudes. Next, behavioral therapy is grounded in the principle that human behavior is learned and, therefore, can be unlearned. By helping clients identify current problematic thoughts and behaviors and overcome them, they can feel more confident in their ability to choose healthier patterns for themselves throughout long-term recovery. At CCM, we provide a wide range of crisis and wellness services for individuals and families across the entire continuum of care. Learn more by calling (855) 467-3226.