Medical research suggests that many forms of mental illness begin with chemical changes in the brain. While it’s hard to see the damage with the naked eye, brain scans can even demonstrate how portions of the brain work differently when a mental illness is in play. Working in tandem with the physiological advancements, some experts believe that changing the way people think could help them behave more appropriately and feel better about life. That’s what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is designed to do, and studies of this practice suggest that it could be a radical way to help people heal.
The National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists suggests that CBT focuses on the thoughts that drive a person’s actions.1 Where other therapies might focus on external triggers, such as the behaviors of others or the situations a person encounters, CBT sessions are designed to better understand the thoughts a person has during different types of situations.
Often, when fighting a mental illness, a person cannot seem to think thoughts that are not negative, like thinking they are unattractive, unintelligent or untalented compared to those around them. These kinds of beliefs can keep people trapped in drug use as they may choose to use drugs to soothe their anxiety from these thoughts. CBT is designed to help people to change those thoughts in order to develop more positive behaviors. CBT often shows results very quickly. For example, the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy suggests that people with mental illnesses like anxiety often need only six or 12 sessions in order to change their behavior through positive thinking. Results vary, but many respond quickly to this type of treatment.
Typical Individual Sessions
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is sometimes provided in individual sessions, involving only a client and a therapist working together toward the goal of healing. Along with participating in therapy sessions, clients are asked to contribute to almost every aspect of their care, including the following ways:
- Setting treatment goals
- Ranking problems by order of importance
- Assessing the effectiveness of therapy
- Terminating therapy when the goals have been met
- Changing the plan when improvement isn’t taking place
In a CBT session, clients are trained to assess thoughts as valid or invalid and develop skills for how to act upon whether the thoughts are beneficial. At the end of the session, the client will have a complete plan of action to work through situations and might also have homework assignments to complete in order to practice the new skills learned. Most sessions last about 50 minutes and take place once a week. People in residential addiction programs, however, might go to therapy much more frequently.2
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Groups
While CBT provided in a one-on-one setting can be powerful, it’s also a useful intervention in a group setting. Patients have an insider’s perspective on the issue, and they may be able to provide insights different from the therapist. Peers might also be helpful in role-play sessions, allowing a person to really reenact a particular moment that causes distress.Group settings might also be helpful for skill building. Since CBT requires people to change the way in which they think, patients sometimes need to work on their anger management abilities, communication skills and emotional control. Skill-building sessions allow people to do just that with one another.
Measuring the Success
While most people who participate in CBT suggest that they have learned to better control negative thoughts and compulsions, scientists suggest that the therapy can actually amend the way the brain functions on a cellular level. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, patients who have completed CBT demonstrate healing and improved functioning in their brains through this form of talk therapy.3 While these findings are exciting, the fact that people are able to appropriately change their behaviors based on skills learned in CBT validates its efficacy as a valuable modality.One example of healthy behavior modification through CBT came through a study of patients with health anxiety. Patients who formerly developed symptoms associated with life-threatening mental illnesses while actually being healthy reported fewer felt symptoms after sessions of CBT.4
Similar results have been seen in people who get CBT for drug use and addiction issues. Patients often gain control over their use, and the therapy also helps to address the underlying issues that can sometimes initiate a drug problem. In the beginning, the therapy was designed to help people who had an addiction to cocaine, but now the therapy has been used to treat other addictions, including addictions to the following:
Even addictions to prescription painkillers and sedatives, along with other drugs like bath salts, could be amended with sessions of CBT. As long as clients are willing to work hard and be honest in therapy, they could make gains.
CBT at The Oaks at La Paloma
At The Oaks at La Paloma, we believe in using evidence based therapies like CBT. We offer specialized treatment in co-occurring disorders like addiction and mental health issues, and we’re equipped to we tailor our CBT sessions to address both issues simultaneously to provide the most benefit. Through both one-on-one sessions and group therapy, patients participate in multiple styles of counseling in which to thrive and heal.
If you’d like to learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at The Oaks at La Paloma, or find out how we incorporate mental health into everything we do, please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline today. We’re here to help you understand your options and gain control over your life. Just call.
4 Whiteman, H. “Cognitive behavioral therapy ‘effective’ for health anxiety.”
Medical News Today.19 October 2013.Web. Accessed 15 August 2017.
5 “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine).” Principles of Drug Addiction: A Research Based Guide (NIDA). December 2012. Accessed 15 August 2017.