What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or more commonly known as CBT, is a therapeutic technique that is used to address and resolve mental health problems while increasing happiness. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing thinking patterns and behaviors as it addresses the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Unlike traditional therapy, based on the psychoanalysis of Freud, CBT is a highly practical therapy based on skills and tools, rather than analysis of childhood wounds. CBT has been supported by evidence and can be applied to most of life’s challenges and difficulties. Knowing what is behavioral therapy and finding a specialized treatment can significantly help patients suffering from any type of mental disorder such as anxiety or depression.

How does cognitive-behavioral therapy work?

Developed in the 1960’s by Aaron Beck, CBT focuses on the internal dialogue that individuals have in their minds. This internal dialogue is, in essence, the things that people say to themselves in different situations. For example, a person might run into a co-worker while grocery shopping after work. The person might think to himself, “Susie ignored me in the store, I wonder if she’s upset with me?” When having these thoughts, he might start to feel anxious or upset and begin to wonder if he did something to upset his coworker. This might lead to additional thoughts of “Susie must not like me because I was recently promoted”, which could influence the feelings the person experiences.

It is this connection between the thoughts that a person has and the feelings they experience which is important and at the heart of CBT. Based off this connection, Beck coined the term automatic thoughts, which describe the thoughts a person might have that elicit emotion. By identifying the thoughts that are negative and unhelpful, a person can begin to understand and eventually overcome the difficulties they are struggling to manage.


The relationship between these negative thoughts and the emotions that we experience are based off the meanings that we give to events. In the example above, there was an assigned meaning to the interaction in the grocery store. While this situation would unlikely stop the person from going to work the next day, if the thought becomes too negative, a person may hold on to the same thoughts, which might stop them from learning anything new.

Cognitive behavioral approach

Using a cognitive behavioral approach, the cognitive behavioral therapists at APEX Recovery will help you develop insight and understanding regarding your automatic thoughts and the relationship they have with your mood and substance use disorders. These hands-on evidence-based treatments focus on goal setting as the client and cognitive behavioral therapist work together to identify problems, brainstorm new strategies for addressing problems and implementing positive solutions.

Behavioral therapy techniques

Behavioral therapy in a nutshell is therapy with the goal to reinforce positive and desirable behaviors while eliminated maladaptive behavior. Behavioral therapy comes from the principles of behaviorism, in which the primary concept is that we learn from our environment and based on the theories of conditioning. A very simple example of behaviorism and conditioning is with dogs or animals, in that they are rewarded with treats or toys when they are well behaved and perform tricks, and punished when they chew up shoes or have accidents in the house.

In applying these behavioral principles to the evidence-based treatment of substance abuse and other mental health conditions, the idea is to use the same learning principles that led to the formation of maladaptive and unwanted behaviors to more ideal and beneficial behaviors. For example, in regards to substance abuse, a person has learned that if they have a bad or stressful day and they use drugs, they forget about the stress and feel better. Likewise, if a person has anxiety in social situations, if they drink alcohol they become more outgoing and able to engage in the same situations they may have previously avoided. The goal of behavioral therapy is to focus on the problematic behavior and learn new behaviors that eliminate these unwanted behaviors. Your therapist as APEX Recovery will work directly with you to identify new behaviors through action-based therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders

As previously mentioned, CBT has been shown through research to be highly effective and beneficial and is the most widely-used therapy for addressing panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorders. The approach focuses on teaching an individual how to control anxiety, stop the maladaptive thoughts that contribute to anxiety and allow a person to conquer the previously debilitating anxiety and fears. This behavioral therapy truly helps in uncovering the causes for fears and worries and learn how to approach situations in new ways while learning skills that help with relaxation, coping and problem solving.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression

CBT is considered a first-line option for treatment depression through changing unhelpful thinking styles and behaviors and resolving life problems. Thought patterns that are negative and contribute to depression include:
· Overgeneralization: drawing conclusions that are too broad
· All-or-nothing thinking: viewing the world as black and white or only good or bad
· Rejecting the positive: disqualifying positive experiences and focusing only on the negative
· Maximizing or minimizing: blowing things out of proportion or overly shrinking something to make it seem less important
· Personalization: blaming yourself or taking responsibility for things that were not your fault
· Mental filter: only paying attention to certain types of evidence in situations

Working through a CBT approach, an individual with depression will learn to recognize these patterns and identify the ways in which they contribute to their emotions and overall mood. Through challenging these negative thoughts and creating a different outlook, CBT can help manage depression

Cognitive behavioral intervention

Common cognitive behavioral interventions that you can expect to experience when working with CBT therapists using a cognitive behavior therapy approach includes first and foremost the identification of cognitive distortions, of faulty ways of thinking. This can be done through journaling and mood tracking, which are helpful tools to gather data about your mood, including the source and your responses to them. Once these cognitive distortions and automatic thoughts are identified, the goal of CBT is to challenge and replace, or restructure the unhelpful thinking habits. One other common intervention is commonly known as “playing the script” or “playing the tape”. In this intervention, you are encouraged to play out the course of a worst-case scenario to the end. While there are multiple other interventions have developed from CBT, your therapist will work directly with you to identify the tools and skills that will help you and your unique needs and provide you with the tools to continue to maintain happiness, growth and sobriety after treatment.

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