Learn / Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Offers a New Perspective

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Offers a New Perspective

Sarah Shawaker
 March 8th, 2023|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

When you’re planning for addiction and mental health recovery, it can be hard to know where to start. There are countless types of therapy, and each of them treats a different issue. But in most programs, one approach stands out: cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

This treatment focuses on the idea that our thoughts shape our lives. And negative thoughts can be a normal response to addiction or mental health issues. But you are not your thoughts. And the skills you learn in a rehab with cognitive behavioral therapy can guide you toward a brighter future.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT teaches you to address issues by reframing your own perspective. You’ll learn practical ways to respond to triggers, thought distortions, and limiting beliefs. And once you break out of those well-worn thought patterns, your emotions will likely become more manageable. This, in turn, empowers you to act in ways that support your goals.

A wealth of data shows that CBT effectively improves patients’ quality of life.1 That’s easier to measure because it’s a goal-oriented form of psychotherapy. During sessions, you’ll spend most of your time learning and then practicing new skills. And when you do talk about past trauma, you’ll consider it through the lens of how it’s impacting you in the present day.

What to Expect in a Session

In a CBT session, your counselor can meet you right where you are. Therapists use the same techniques in individual therapy, group sessions, and family therapy. CBT is a short-term treatment method. Most patients attend between 5-20 sessions.

In your first meeting, your therapist will get to know you. You’ll also talk about your goals for treatment, and any specific diagnoses you’re healing from.

In future sessions, you’ll learn to identify your triggers and the way they make you feel. And once you understand where your emotions come from, you can begin to regulate them. To reach that goal, your therapist will teach you some practical skills. Depending on your exact treatment goals, you might focus on different techniques. There are numerous CBT skills, but a few are especially common:

  • Imagery-based exposure:2 First, you’ll recall a painful or triggering memory. Then, you’ll dig into the thoughts and feelings you associate with that experience. By revisiting those emotions in a protected environment, you’ll learn new ways to respond. So if you get triggered by the same memory in the future, you’ll already know what to do next.
  • Thought records:3 You’ll keep a daily written record of your thoughts, feelings, and the events that caused them. This technique is similar to journaling. But instead of freewriting, you’ll fill out a worksheet and answer specific questions. Then you’ll review your progress with your therapist.
  • Interrupting cognitive distortions:4 It’s easy to mistake your thoughts for facts. But CBT teaches you to identify inaccurate thoughts. For example, you might feel lonely even if you have a strong support network. And noticing that distinction can ground you in reality.

Over time, you can learn to use these skills intuitively. That’s a skill, too—and an important one for your long-term recovery.

What Does CBT Treat?

CBT is the “jack of all trades” of treatment. You can access it in most rehab programs, or attend sessions on an outpatient basis. And CBT can help with a wide variety of mental health conditions:5

CBT doesn’t only address mental health issues. It can also treat some medical and emotional challenges:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Addiction

CBT is a highly effective treatment for addiction.6 In part, that’s because addiction affects more than your thoughts and feelings. It’s also a behavioral pattern. CBT shows you how your emotions influence your actions. And when you understand that link, you can disrupt the thoughts that lead you to drink or take drugs.

Experts at Footprints Beachside Recovery, a rehab center in Florida, view CBT as a key part of long-term recovery.7 In their program, some CBT sessions focus on relapse prevention. Patients learn how to recognize warning signs and interrupt old behavioral patterns. If you practice these skills during rehab, you’ll be better prepared for the next phase of healing.

Treating Mental Health With CBT

Unlike some other treatments, this therapy is extremely versatile. In fact, CBT is one of the most popular therapies1 for mental health. That might be because it addresses the root cause of each issue, and not just the symptoms. As a result, CBT can help people with a wide variety of diagnoses. But it’s especially popular for a few conditions.


CBT is a firmly established treatment for depression. And it can have long-lasting effects. Research shows that CBT for depression lowers relapse rates8 significantly. It might even be more effective than medication alone.

In each session, you’ll learn how to challenge negative beliefs about yourself and your life. Your therapist might also assign homework to help you reframe the way you think. For instance, you might reward yourself every time you do something that’s hard for you, like folding laundry.  So over time, you’ll start associating those tasks with good feelings.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Recovering from trauma can be overwhelming. CBT teaches you to work with that fact, instead of fighting it. Treatment helps you unpack complex feelings, separating painful memories from your present reality. And over time, this process can bring you a new sense of clarity.

CBT is a very effective way to treat trauma symptoms.9 Some rehab programs even offer specialized types of this therapy for people healing from trauma:

You can access these types of therapy in many settings, including outpatient treatment. But in residential rehab, you can often find them in programs that offer trauma-informed care.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders commonly stem from a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. For instance, thinking about your weight might lead you to skip a meal. CBT offers a new perspective, which can help you break out of old patterns.

CBT is the leading form of treatment for eating disorders,12 especially bulimia. It can be even more effective when patients also engage in eye movement therapy (EMDR).

Forge Your Own Path With CBT Skills

Healing isn’t easy. That’s true for everyone—even if you’re well on your way to recovery. And CBT doesn’t remove the obstacles in your path. Instead, it prepares you to face them. Although this treatment has a limited number of sessions, the skills it teaches you can last a lifetime.

Explore rehabs that offer cognitive behavioral therapy to learn more and reach out to centers directly.

Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod

  1. “What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” Https://Www.Apa.Org, https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023. [] []
  2. McEvoy, Peter M., et al. Imagery-Enhanced CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder. Guilford Publications, 2018. []
  3. McManus, F., et al. “Examining the Effects of Thought Records and Behavioral Experiments in Instigating Belief Change.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, vol. 43, no. 1, Mar. 2012, pp. 540–47. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2011.07.003. []
  4. Greg Dubord MD. “Part 8. Cognitive illusions.” Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Series. Canadian Family Physician, Vol 57. Praxis. https://www.cfp.ca/content/cfp/57/7/799.full.pdf []
  5. “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) | Royal College of Psychiatrists.” Www.Rcpsych.Ac.Uk, https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/treatments-and-wellbeing/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-(cbt). Accessed 7 Mar. 2023. []
  6. McHugh, R. Kathryn, et al. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America, vol. 33, no. 3, Sept. 2010, pp. 511–25. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.012. []
  7. “How Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Plays a Role in Addiction Treatment.” Footprints to Recovery | Drug Rehab & Alcohol Addiction Treatment Centers, https://footprintstorecovery.com/addiction-therapy/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023. []
  8. Sudak, Donna M. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America, vol. 35, no. 1, Mar. 2012, pp. 99–110. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2011.10.001. []
  9. Kar, Nilamadhab. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Review.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, vol. 7, no. 1, Apr. 2011, pp. 167–81. www.dovepress.com, https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S10389.
  10. VA.Gov | Veterans Affairs. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/prolonged_exposure.asp#:~:text=Prolonged%20Exposure%20(PE)%20is%20a,been%20avoiding%20since%20your%20trauma. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023. []
  11. VA.Gov | Veterans Affairs. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/cognitive_processing.asp. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023. []
  12. Carolyn Coker Ross, MD, MPH. “Eating Disorders, Trauma, and PTSD.” National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/resources/eating-disorders-trauma-ptsd-recovery []

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