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  • Writer's pictureChoice Recovery


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (“CBT”) is behavioral health therapy used to treat depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and many other diagnoses’ in the field of mental health care. Developed by Dr. Arron Beck while a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960’s, CBT has become a consistently taught and practiced treatment modality in private practices and addiction treatment facilities around the world.

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to train individuals how to identify when their actions are being dictated by distorted, inaccurate, or unrealistic thought. For example, when an individual drives decision making on a set of negative thoughts and experiences, which are often generated from historical events or untrue beliefs, it is difficult for them to approach the future positively. Likewise, if an individual is basing action on a false reality, they find it difficult to solve problems or function efficiently in our complex and fast-paced society. CBT helps an individual recognize where thought has been generated and how it is influencing them. From this position, that individual is in a much better place to make appropriate personal, relationship, professional and other life decisions.

CBT Model

Through his work, Dr. Beck recognized that an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are correlated to such an extent that if not properly managed, they can cause increased levels of depression, anxiety, or other behavioral issues. If an individual carries negative thought, it is almost certain that their actions, decisions, and opinions will be significantly influenced by these unhealthy, and often, erroneous judgments. Thus, when an individual engages in life with this partisan frame of mind, the outcome is generally a poor one.

Clinicians working with clients look to challenge and modify this distorted thinking and how it influences and leads to destructive behavior. Through improved awareness, and the ability to distinguish what one is making-up versus what is reality, a therapist can help to reduce psychological distress in an individual’s life. An individual with the ability to accurately and honestly assess how their thoughts and emotions are dictating action allows them to approach life from a much healthier perspective.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Applied in the Treatment of Addiction

Why CBT helps addicts: An addict’s mind will do anything, including distort reality with the intent to send the individual in a down spiral emotionally, to get the drink or their drug of choice. When an addict is in an uncomfortable place, whether emotionally or physically, the mind is an expert at rationalizing why drinking a beer, smoking a joint or using is a reasonable solution to the current situation. From the outside, it is clear these thoughts are self-generated, void of common sense, and destructive, but for the addict they are real. When working with a qualified therapist, individuals can learn why their mind generates such thoughts, gain techniques to properly address the unwanted feelings they create and develop behaviors that over time can minimize the regularity in which they occur.

We all have those “triggers” that immediately send the mind racing into a negative place. These triggers create uncomfortable emotions and feelings which the mind hopes will quickly influence a bad decision, like using again. In these situations, the ability to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to recognize what the mind is doing is a valuable tool for the addict in recovery.

About Choice Recovery:

Choice Recovery is an intensive outpatient treatment facility serving those struggling with addiction. Located in Mesa, Arizona, Choice is dedicated to partnering with individuals who are committed to taking the steps necessary to re-integrating themselves into life without the use of drugs or alcohol. Our individualized programs take an evidenced-based holistic approach to care which are designed to foster personal growth that will endure long after treatment has concluded.


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