Sometimes a word or phrase isn’t very specific. Take, for example, “football game.” Is it a professional football game? A college game—and if so, in what conference and division? A high school game? Are we sure we’re talking about American football? Or could we be talking about arena football? Or Canadian football? Or soccer?
Therapy – the Word, the Idea, the Reality
Like the word “football,” the word “therapy” is often used without context. We might have a general sense that “being in therapy” means getting help for a mental health or substance use disorder (setting aside, of course, physical therapy). We might have the stereotypical idea in our head of a person lying on a couch and talking while a therapist takes notes and asks pointed questions. We might think that everyone who is in therapy is having basically the same experience.
The reality, however, is somewhat different. “Therapy” covers a lot of territory. There are actually many different kinds of therapy, and they can be used separately or in combination to help a person dealing with challenges in their life. And because each person is different, each person’s experience of therapy is likely to be different, too.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a specific therapeutic approach with clear goals. It can be a powerful tool for someone who needs to develop a better understanding of the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Developing that understanding can help a person find solutions or more positive approaches to their most pressing problems.
CBT Features: Structured, Goal Oriented, Short-Term
Because cognitive behavioral therapy is intended to help address current issues in a person’s life, it follows a structured approach focused on achievable goals. This focus on addressing immediate problems means that CBT tends to be a short-term commitment. Generally speaking, CBT involves 12 to 16 sessions, while other therapeutic practices may stretch out over months or years. This limited timeline means that CBT is often part of rehab programs for substance use disorders because rehab also occurs over a limited period of time.
CBT Keys: Functional Analysis and Skills Training
It is difficult to solve a problem if you don’t know what is causing the problem. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves functional analysis—which is just a fancy way to say that CBT helps clients figure out the causes of their problems.
Say, for example, that you have an overwhelming desire to sleep during the day—even if you get a good night’s sleep. Talking the issue through with your therapist, you might discover that napping helps you tamp down anxiety related to your job. Now you know the cause of the problem and can work on addressing it directly.
That is where skills training comes in–to help you develop a better way to address the problem. So, if your job is causing you excessive amounts of anxiety, your therapist will help you adopt more effective coping strategies. You might decide to practice mindfulness meditation or talk with your doctor about anti-anxiety medication (making sure your doctor has a full understanding of your mental health challenges and any history with substance use disorders) or change your day-to-day schedule in a way that will alleviate the anxiety.
CBT Details: Ideas, Issues, and Examples
As we have noted, everyone’s experience of therapy is going to be different, but here are the sorts of things that might be addressed or considered during cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Reflecting on negative self-talk and the ways it can undermine your mental health and/or recovery from a substance use disorder
- Identifying personal triggers that might spark anxious feelings or lead to dangerous cravings for drugs or alcohol—and then developing a plan to address those triggers effectively
- Thoughtful reflection about the pros and cons of maintaining problematic relationships or using harmful substances as a coping mechanism
These are just a few examples of the various issues that might be addressed during cognitive behavioral therapy. The search for underlying causes and the development of skills to deal with those causes can be applied to a range of problems in our lives.
Peak View Behavioral Health Can Determine if CBT Is Right for You
Cognitive behavioral therapy is just one of a number of different types of therapy available at Peak View Behavioral Health. Our team has the compassion and expertise necessary to listen to you and then to work with you to find the best options for addressing the mental health and/or substance use disorders with which you are struggling. Therapy at Peak View is not a one-size-fits-all affair. We are committed to personalized approaches that will help you move toward your goals and improve your quality of life.