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What Is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 15, 2023

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With addiction on the rise in the United States and depression rates tripling, more people are asking themselves “What is cognitive behavioral therapy?”

Cognitive behavioral therapy, commonly abbreviated to CBT, is a form of psychotherapy founded by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s. Mainly used to treat anxiety disorders and depressive disorders, CBT can also be applied effectively to other areas of physical and mental health. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also proven effective for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) and substance use disorder (drug addiction).

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What is CBT?

Psychotherapy is the clinical descriptor for talk therapy. As the informal name implies, talking is central to this type of psychosocial intervention.

When CBT is implemented in combination with behavioral therapy, you can learn to better manage your problems and stressors by changing the way in which you think and behave.

Working closely with a cognitive behavioral therapist, you will explore the flawed and faulty reasoning and thinking that has led to issues like addiction to drink and drugs.

Many forms of therapy dive deep into the past, whereas CBT focuses sharply on your current circumstances. CBT sessions do not involve laying on a couch and pouring out your past. CBT does acknowledge the past but places more emphasis on using problem-centered strategies to improve functioning.

Your therapist will help you to identify distorted and negative thoughts. They will also help you to create healthy coping strategies to employ when you are confronted with stressors or problems.

All of the following professionals can lead cognitive behavioral therapy sessions:

  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Counselor
  • Licensed social worker

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you to become more aware of automatic thoughts, learning to differentiate between irrational thoughts and fact more accurately.

Instead of catastrophizing – fearing the worst in all situations – you’ll learn to face up to and overcome fears instead of avoiding them and letting those fears rule your life. CBT will help you to establish attainable goals and work toward achieving those goals.

What is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a specific type of CBT that addresses the needs of trauma survivors who are struggling to overcome the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and similar conditions.

TF-CBT is a short-term therapy model, typically involving from 12 to 18 short sessions of 25 minutes.

Trauma-focused CBT is highly effective for treating trauma-based disorders, especially in children and adolescents. The therapy was first developed to treat patients aged 3 to 18.

There is a strong evidence base for the effectiveness of trauma-focused CBT. Through TF-CBT sessions, you’ll learn how to change the way you think and act, regardless of external events.

In addition to treating the symptoms of trauma-based disorders, TF-CBT can also be beneficial for overcoming sleep disorders and for preventing addiction relapse.

The concepts of TF-CBT are drawn from the following philosophies and treatment modalities:

  • Humanistic psychology
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

Everyone engages with CBT sessions for different reasons. Your therapist will help you to explore and identify the thought patterns and behaviors causing problems in your life. As you become more proficient at isolating what triggers you into a vicious cycle of automatic behaviors and negative outcomes, you’ll find you can influence how you act in response to certain thoughts.

Over time, practicing CBT will empower you to become your own therapist. You should gain the ability to change problematic patterns of thinking, to control your emotions more fully, and to change your behaviors.

CBT sessions will assist you in these key areas:

  • Identification: Your therapist teaches you to identify problematic emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • Recognition: You learn how to interrupt the thoughts and actions triggering adverse outcomes.
  • Management: You use CBT techniques of CBT to benefit body and mind, and also to avoid engaging in self-defeating behaviors.

Through the application of a variety of techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy involves:

  • Employing calming techniques
  • Gaining a deeper understanding of the motivation and thinking of others
  • Discovering how faulty thinking can worsen problems
  • Sharpening your problem-solving skills
  • Improving self-confidence and self-worth
  • Confronting your challenges or fears

What is the Goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The APA (American Psychological Association) reports that cognitive behavioral therapy is based on these core assumptions:

  1. Problematic thinking underpins many psychological issues
  2. Learned patterns of behavior can be both unhelpful and damaging
  3. It is possible to learn more productive patterns of thinking and behaving
  4. Using coping skills learned via CBT, you can alleviate the intensity of adverse symptoms
  5. Cultivating new and healthy habits can lead to an improvement in daily functioning

You can benefit in all of these areas if you complete a short and time-limited course of CBT.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Renaissance Recovery

Here at Renaissance Recovery Center, we offer treatment for the following:

  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Mental health disorders
  • Co-occurring disorders

Psychotherapy like CBT and DBT is a core part of all treatment programs. Whether you are grappling with alcoholism, drug addiction, mental health conditions, or a combination of these issues, talk therapy can help you regain control over your emotions and your behaviors.

We specialize in the outpatient treatment of addiction and mental health conditions, allowing you to remain anchored to your daily life while engaging with structured treatment. We offer regular outpatient programs, as well as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) for those requiring more time commitment.

Your personalized treatment program may include any of the following evidence-based therapies:

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Psychotherapy like CBT and DBT
  • Counseling (group and individual)
  • Family therapy
  • Adventure therapy

Through behavioral interventions like CBT, you’ll learn how to implement healthier coping mechanisms rather than being triggered into poor behaviors like substance abuse.

When you complete your treatment program here at Renaissance, you’ll either step down to a less intensive form of treatment or transition back into sober living. With a solid relapse prevention plan and aftercare strategy in place, you will have a firm foundation for sustained sobriety and sound mental health.

Start your recovery journey today by reaching out to Renaissance at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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