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Set Goals, Solve Problems: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Set Goals, Solve Problems: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Different people grappling with different issues are often best served by different approaches to therapy. That said, one common approach is known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can be quite useful in the treatment of a mental health disorder, a substance use disorder, or both. 

Let’s take a closer look at cognitive behavioral therapy.

Connecting Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions

At the heart of CBT is the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are intertwined, and it is important to understand the nature of the relationship between the three. Armed with that understanding, a person is better able to identify positive approaches and solutions to issues they are currently facing. All too often, our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all tangled up in ways that are difficult to fully understand. Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to provide the tools and the opportunity to find those important connections among the three.

Focused on Pressing Problems

CBT is firmly focused on problems a person is facing at the time of treatment. The therapy is structured and goal-oriented—and generally limited to 12 to 16 sessions. To make headway on pressing problems, CBT is built around two concepts: functional analysis and skills training.

Functional analysis is the process of figuring out the cause (or causes) of the challenge (or challenges) you are currently grappling with. It is surprising how often a person does not have a clear understanding of what is the true cause of a problem they are facing—or at least an unwillingness to acknowledge that cause. CBT provides a space to identify and name the foundational issue that needs to be addressed.

Once the problem has been named, the therapy shifts to skills training, which is centered on identifying and developing healthy approaches for solving the problem (or problems) under consideration. So, for example, if you find that a given situation consistently causes you feelings of anxiety, you would work toward ways to better manage the anxiety or change the situation in ways that might lessen those anxious feelings for you.

DBT Can Enhance CBT

For some people, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a variation of cognitive behavioral therapy—can provide additional benefits. DBT introduces concepts including mindfulness, acceptance, and distress tolerance to the functional analysis and skills training at the heart of CBT.

Mindfulness practice helps an individual learn to stay in the present moment rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Developing this skill can help a person respond in healthier ways when faced with a problem or challenge.

Acceptance (sometimes called “radical acceptance”) refers to the need to accept the facts about the past and present—even when those facts may be unpleasant. Accepting reality is decidedly not the same as approving of or liking reality as it is. It just means acknowledging reality so that you can address it in useful ways.

The notion of distress tolerance is a way to think about how you manage actual or perceived distress in your life. Building up your distress tolerance by identifying strategies and techniques that can help you move effectively through a difficult situation is an important part of DBT.

CBT is Just One Therapeutic Approach Among Many

We opened this blog entry by pointing out something important: “Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all activity.” It is an important idea—so important, in fact, that we have previously published a blog entry that uses those words as its title.

In that entry, in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, we also examine recreational therapy, family systems therapy, and animal therapy. 

We also take a look at both individual and group therapy in this entry. Both approaches can have real benefits for your mental health as well as for firming up the foundations of sobriety for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder.

At Peak View Behavioral Health, Our Focus is You

One of the reasons we highlight the fact that there are a number of different approaches to therapy is that we want to emphasize our personalized approach for providing treatment for mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or a combination of the two. When it comes to therapy, there are no cookie-cutter solutions, so we are committed to listening intently to your specific needs and designing a treatment plan that is unique to you.

All of our work is grounded in evidence-based practices, and our care is built on a foundation of expertise, experience, and empathy. Each person who seeks care at Peak View Behavioral Health—located in Colorado Springs, Colorado—is treated by a highly trained team of psychiatrists, psychologists, medical doctors, nursing staff members, therapists, and behavioral health associates.


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