With so many acronyms involved in treatment for substance use, it can become really confusing. Letters are thrown around at a time when we are just trying to figure ourselves out and regain control of our lives. All of these different types of therapies and the letters become a blur. So what is CBT Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy that focuses on thinking patterns and feelings and how they impact our behavior. These factors combine to affect our well-being.
Controlling Our Own Outcome
One of the most powerful concepts behind CBT is to give us the ability to control our own outcome. Too often, due to learned behaviors and thinking patterns, our outcomes are a product of unconscious manifestations. When we learn how to identify and take control of our thoughts and identify how our feelings affect our behaviors, then we can correct old habits and live purposefully and authentically.
Learning to control our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can be particularly powerful for those of us who have struggled with substance abuse. Not only have we been under the control of our substances, our choices to use substances in the first place have likely been influenced by our negative thought and behavioral patterns.
The concept of automatic thoughts is exactly as the name suggests: they are thoughts that are automatic, based on thinking patterns that are developed from childhood. They are often not based on reality or even the current situation. Rather, they are based on our previous experiences and the feelings and emotions that we have assigned to them.
The problem with automatic thoughts is that they often provide an emotionally distorted view of reality. For example, if we had a parent who traveled for work when we were young, we might have wrongly assumed that every time they left for a trip, they didn’t love us. The automatic thought that might occur from that pattern of thinking would be that when someone leaves, they don’t love us. CBT helps us to separate out the emotional fallacy and correct our thinking so that when someone leaves, we understand they are simply traveling.
The Power Negative Thinking Has Over Us
A big focus of CBT is not just those automatic thoughts, but patterns of negative thinking. Our thoughts are very powerful, they not only impact our emotions, but they also control our actions. Our thoughts define who we are and how we present ourselves.
When we believe our negative thoughts, they also cloud how we view the world. We are more likely to respond to situations negatively, and we are more likely to exhibit negative behaviors, as well. This means that we are more likely to engage in substance use and other harmful practices. Negative thinking also propagates lower self-esteem.
Our learned patterns do not only include thoughts, but we also engage in learned patterns of behavior. For example, in a relationship, whenever there is conflict, we may decide to break up with the other person before they can break up with us. Rather than attempting to resolve the conflict, we react with our learned behavior.
So often, these learned patterns are not healthy. Additionally, they are a blanket reaction, rather than assessing each situation individually and reacting to the unique criteria. These learned behaviors prevent us from interacting appropriately in our lives, and can negatively impact the outcome of many situations.
As we invest our efforts into CBT, we learn to change our thinking. We can look at negative outcomes in our past, and determine where our emotions and thinking determined the end result. By becoming aware of our negative thinking and learned behavioral patterns, we also learn how to create new neutral or positive thoughts around these old thought patterns.
Changing our thinking changes the outcomes. For example, in the earlier example of the relationship conflict, we can change our thinking to acknowledge that the conflict is merely a difference of opinion and that we are capable of resolving it. Changing our thinking allows us to control the outcome of individual situations, as well as the outcome of our lives.
In the case of substance use, our learned patterns and negative thinking have helped us to remain a hostage to our substances. By changing our thinking about substance use, we can create new thought patterns to empower us to live successfully without substances.
Finding help in our battle against substance use is rewarding. More rewarding is when we can learn skills that make us self-sufficient in our recovery. CBT is a type of therapy, but it is also a skill set that we can implement in our lives now and going forward.
Together with proper medical care, exercise, and good nutrition, as well as all of the other elements of treatment, we can be successful in recovery, and we can become independent, too. With CBT, we can analyze our thoughts and behaviors and change our fate.
What is CBT Therapy? It is a type of therapy that can teach us better ways to think to help us be more successful in all areas of our lives. At AToN Center, we use CBT to help people heal from substance use and negative thinking. Call (888) 535-1516 today to find out if CBT can heal your mind and help you reach your goals in life.