Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most effective means of mental health and addiction treatments. Through this practice, patients are trained to identify hazardous thought patterns and replace them with far more useful ones. If negative thinking has been holding you back, CBT could be right for you.
How It Works
Thinking is an essential part of life, but it’s often used incorrectly. Instead of thinking in a way that benefits you, you’ve likely used it for obsessing over things you don’t like about yourself. You might be comparing yourself to others and thinking about how you’re inadequate next to them. Then, you might realize that what you’re doing is making you feel bad, and you begin to criticize yourself for not being happy with you, furthering the negative feelings.
Cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t end thinking, but it does make thinking more productive. You end up becoming something of a detective when you use CBT, and the person you’re tracking is yourself. You might think you know yourself already, but it’s a whole different scenario when you’re reviewing your thoughts. Coming face-to-face with them can be scary at first, but it can teach you some very important lessons.
Cognitive behavioral therapy starts with a thought or a situation that has made you feel bad. You want to write this down, either in a personal notebook or logged in a special app on your smartphone. Start with how you’re generally feeling. It can be as simple as saying you’re sad or angry. Then, bring up any additional negative emotions that you have, from fear to stress. This can help you to get a sense of what emotions need to be addressed.
Now is the time to get to specific. Write down what has happened that made you upset. For instance, you might say that a co-worker made a rude comment to you, or it could be that someone cut you off in traffic, and it upset you. Don ‘t concern yourself with whether or not your frustration is justified. This is meant for your own private usage, and being upset is not immoral.
Negative experiences lead to negative thoughts. It might seem like one giant, amorphous blob of negative thoughts, which is why you need to separate them from each other. You can have different types of negativity at one time. For instance, you could have a situation that makes you both angry and sad.
A good way to identify negative thoughts is to just transcribe your inner monologue. If you do poorly on a test and tell yourself “I’m worthless”, you should write that down. This isn’t because you’re actually worthless, but because you need to see your negative thoughts right in front of you. Doing this can be freeing.
The next step is to recognize cognitive distortions. A cognitive distortion is any fallacy in our thinking that creates a twisted image of what our reality actually is. These often involve jumping to the worst-case scenario, based on faulty or misleading information. Most negative thinking can be traced back to cognitive distortions. Some of the most common types of cognitive distortions include all-or-nothing thinking, in which you reason that something negative always happens to you or something positive never happens to you, catastrophizing, in which you exaggerate just how bad a situation is, and self-blaming, in which you view yourself as being responsible for anything that goes wrong around you.
Cognitive distortions are a much-needed reality check. When you compare them to your thoughts, you can see just how absurd your thought patterns have been. Be able to identify exactly what your thoughts are is often very useful. Instead of being upset but not knowing exactly why you can see that it’s due to things like comparing yourself to others or jumping to conclusions.
Then, it’s time to work on doing the thoughts. Take the situation at hand and view it from a more rational perspective. For instance, if your situation is that you overslept and your thoughts are that you’re stupid and unreliable, your response could be that you made a mistake, but that you’ve been very good about waking up on them as of late. There might still be negative feelings, particularly if it happened recently, but you’ll think better of yourself.
The most important part of CBT practice is consistency. You might not see results in your first few logs, but keeping up with the practice makes a big difference. You can identify patterns in what kinds of events cause you the most distress. Then, you can gradually reduce their strain on you by developing coping skills through your alternative thought patterns. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to stop negative thoughts dead in their tracks and just shrug off unpleasant situations. Even if you can still identify that you don’t care for them, you’ll be able to move on without letting them ruin your day.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a highly effective means of addiction treatment. If someone has a dual-diagnosis treatment, which addresses both substance abuse and mental health, CBT can help them to realize the burden that their negative thoughts have been having on them and causing negative feelings. When someone is in addiction recovery, they need to be able to build their mind back up. CBT allows them to stay on the course towards recovery by showing that there is a way to get out of their negative thought patterns.
If you’re undergoing addiction recovery treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy can be very useful. You will need to be consistent with your keeping of a CBT diary. When a negative experience happens, or when you have a negative thought, you need to log it as soon as possible. This can keep it from festering inside of you and getting worse. This can also help to keep your self-esteem in check and keep you from slipping into the temptation of drugs and alcohol.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or a co-occurring mental health disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy could play a significant role in healing. Contact us for more information on reclaiming your life today.