cognitive behavioral therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Published on December 23, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

If you have ever looked into therapy for yourself or someone you love, you have likely come across the term cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.  CBT is a common psychotherapy technique that is used to treat a wide array of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Even those who have not been diagnosed with a mental health disorder can benefit from the ways in which CBT teaches you to reframe negative thoughts and harness your emotions.  Therapy can be intimidating to people who have never tried it, and some individuals are still reluctant to believe that talk therapy can be successful. Research tells us, however, that cognitive behavioral therapy has great outcomes for those struggling with mental health disorders and addiction, especially when combined with other treatment methods such as prescription medications and holistic healing.

What to Expect from CBT

If you have never undergone CBT, or any other form of talk therapy, you may be unsure of what to expect.  During your first session, your therapist will most likely focus on getting to know you and understand your situation.  They may ask you questions about your personal history as well as any physical or mental health conditions you may be dealing with.  Your therapist may also begin to assess whether you might benefit from any medications as part of your treatment. Your first session is also a great time for you to ask questions.  You may want to ask you therapist about their typical approach to treatment, how long they expect treatment to last, and discuss your personal therapy goals. 

During CBT you will be encouraged to open up about your thoughts and feelings, as well as whatever challenges you are currently facing.  Together, you and your therapist will set goals to work towards, and your therapist may assign you tasks to complete outside of your sessions, such as reading or activities that will help you to work through specific issues.  CBT can help you to identify problems in your life and become more aware of your thoughts and emotions surrounding those problems. In doing so, you can begin to recognize negative self-talk or problematic thinking patterns that are only exacerbating the severity of your circumstances.  From there, you can begin to retrain your brain to see things from an outsider’s point of view, rather than with the bias you may have been walking around with your entire life. CBT can help you to shrink your problems and view them on a more realistic level so that seemingly enormous issues become manageable. 

CBT and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that occurs after experiencing a traumatic event, and may result in several disruptive symptoms such as flashbacks and panic attacks.  Similarly, secondary-traumatic disorder can occur in individuals who witness trauma, such as severe injury or death, or are routinely exposed to the details of trauma through the requirements of their job, as is the case for first responders.  CBT has been shown to have impressive rates of success in those with PTSD and STSD. While various techniques may be used during CBT to treat these conditions, examples may include controlled exposure to reminders of trauma to reduce avoidance patterns, and reframing catastrophizing thoughts that may be presenting a distorted version of reality.  Over time, CBT can help those with PTSD and STSD think differently about their experiences and their ability to cope. 

CBT and Addiction

In addition to various mental health disorder, CBT is commonly used to treat people struggling with substance use disorders.  Some people with addictions became addicted while attempting to cope with untreated mental illness, while others suffer from deteriorating mental health as a result of substance abuse.  Either way, people with addictions commonly suffer from negative thinking and self-destructive tendencies. CBT can help identify thoughts and feelings that may have led to substance abuse to begin with, as well as emotions and urges that commonly lead to relapse.

Many people living with a dual diagnosis of a substance use disorder and mental health disorder do not receive adequate treatment for mental health.  Instead, those with addictions are often confronted with the pressure to quit using without any support for the mental health issues that led to the addiction in the first place.  CBT is a great way to identify the underlying issues of addiction, and intercept destructive thought patterns before they spiral out of control.

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.