Individuals facing addiction are at the mercy of their own distorted thinking, and they develop these thinking patterns for a variety of reasons. Unhealthy thinking might be evident among the behavior of their spouses or other family members. Certain thinking patterns might also develop because of a need to feel a sense of control or to justify certain behavior. Unhealthy thinking might also develop as a result of not knowing other ways to cope with circumstances and the feelings that those circumstances invoke. Sadly, those with addiction might see the evidence of unhealthy thought patterns around them but not know what the healthy thoughts are to change them.
An effective therapeutic method used many psychologists and therapists to treat a variety of mental illness, including addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT. CBT is often included as a part of drug addiction treatment and essentially aims to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. Because the end goal is to create change in the choices that an individual might make and the unhealthy behaviors that he or she might participate in, CBT is sometimes known as a behavioral therapy.
This form of drug addiction therapy emphasizes the link between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and more importantly, it attempts to identify the way that certain thoughts contribute to the unique problems of an individual’s life. By changing the thought pattern, both feelings and behavior change, which can result in a transformed life. Below are the three domains of CBT and how they are connected:
Below are the three domains of CBT and how they are connected:
- Thoughts: The thinking that goes on inside is the cognition domain and refers to all that happens inwardly, such as thoughts, images, memories, dreams, beliefs, attitudes, and where attention goes. All of these can contribute to negative thinking.
- Feelings: This includes emotional and physical feelings and how an individual might understand and cope with them. Emotions can cause symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, and eating changes.
- Behavior: This domain includes the way in which thoughts and feelings might make a situation worse, such as avoiding certain activities that would help to improve mood. It might also include the behavior that only leads to worsening mood, feelings, and thoughts, such as ruminating or berating oneself.
The focus of CBT is to identify thought patterns that lead to harmful feelings, distress, and/or risky behavior. It aims to change deeply seated, harmful beliefs that are the cause of unhealthy thinking. It facilitates a healthier interpretation of daily events and replaces thoughts with those that are self-affirming. CBT can also provide you with problem solving and coping skills as well as with an outlet to express thoughts and feelings, particularly those that are difficult to manage.
This form of therapy is problem focused as well as goal oriented. It explores the specific issues that an individual is facing and attempts to find the thought pattern that contributes to that problem. Monitoring and documenting thoughts helps to easily identify the connections between them and the specific reactions to certain events in the day. For instance, if a person wasn’t able to meet their boss’ expectation by not completing a work assignment and as a result had the thought, “I am worthless,” this might lead to feeling shameful and perhaps to drug use, self-harm, or a worsening depression.
By changing the thought pattern and by replacing it with thoughts that are aimed towards a specific therapeutic goal, a person’s life can slowly begin to change. For example, instead of “I am worthless”; the new thought might be “I can do this”.
This is a two part series on a valuable aspect to drug addiction treatment known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The next article will explore CBT’s Thought Diary, a tool that individuals use to monitor their thoughts in order to be able to change them.
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