Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence based treatment designed to alter the damaging negative thought patterns people may have developed about themselves, the world and or people in their lives. These thought patterns have resulted in fueling maladaptive Behaviour such as alcohol or drug use, isolation, anger or self harm. In addition, thoughts that are self defeating may also reinforce co-occurring issues with depression and anxiety that often accompany Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

Unwelcome thoughts that lead to negative feelings of self worth or destructive patterns of Behaviour CAN BE changed through the use of CBT. Specifically, CBT helps clients look at how their thoughts, emotions, and actions relate to each other, and how they behave as a result. Destructive and irrational belief systems change as clients learn to understand where they come from and how their beliefs may fail to measure up to reality. CBT helps people analyze negative thought patterns and improve coping skills.

How Does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Work?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has revolutionized the fields of mental health and addiction because unlike treatment modalities before it, CBT is ACTIVE therapy in that it requires an intense level of participation from both the client and the therapist Specifically,  therapists teach clients healthy coping skills and more appropriate emotional responses to people, places and things in their lives. Clients will often have to complete homework assignments on their own time in order to take full advantage of the therapeutic opportunity.

CBT helps clients to recognize when involuntary negative thoughts or automatic thoughts enter their mind and the triggers that bring them on. Through this process, clients learn how to anticipate triggers and their reactions to those triggers so that they can better prepare themselves for how to better manage their reactions and feelings in the future.

CBT relies on the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist that is built on a strong alliance enabled by empathy. Therapists engage in active listening to appreciate the client’s perspective and understand their thoughts and feelings as they relate to life events and past relationships. Once the therapeutic alliance is strong, clients trust the therapist to mentally and emotionally organize their life events to explain their current mental health. This is accomplished by therapists slowly moving clients through the process by questioning and examination their unique experiences. Eventually, clients gain insight into the relationship between emotional distress and a distorted belief system or thoughts.

What Is the Evidence Behind Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

A comprehensive study published by the National Institutes of Health in the United States examined the efficacy of CBT across groups of clients suffering from a wide range of mental health issues including Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The study showed very strong evidence for the benefits of CBT establishing that greater improvement was seen in the groups that underwent CBT than those that did not.

Studies have also shown that CBT can be as effective in treating depression as prescription antidepressants are. As such, CBT is used in treating a variety of mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, and impulsivity. CBT is also used in the treatment of phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).