By Alanna Hilbink

When it comes to you or your loved one’s recovery, you want every tool and advantage possible. You want comprehensive treatment that includes effective, proven therapy options. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of these options. And it may be one the right one for you.

Why Therapy?

CBT is a form of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy”, is probably what you think of when you imagine therapy — a therapist and a patient sitting down in an office, talking about thoughts and feelings and how to respond to these. Psychotherapy in any form can be an effective way to approach addiction recovery and mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that psychotherapy “can touch on topics such as past or current problems, experiences, thoughts, feelings or relationships experienced by the person while the therapist helps make connections and provide insight. Studies have found individual psychotherapy to be effective at improving symptoms in a wide array of mental illnesses, making it both a popular and versatile treatment. It can also be used for families, couples or groups.”1 Psychotherapy is useful in a lot of settings and in many different situations. This means it is flexible, customizable and effective. So, if one form or type doesn’t work, another can.

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Mental health and addiction issues are rooted in our thoughts and actions. The American Psychological Association (APA) explains the basic beliefs behind CBT:2

  • Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
  • Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  • People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.

CBT focuses on learning. Patients learn to recognize thoughts and behaviors that support addiction, or that just aren’t helpful. They then learn new ways of thinking, new ways of approaching situations and new tools for staying clean. CBT helps you to accomplish this through a variety of different strategies.

The Basics Behind CBT

On a general level, CBT shows the connection between our beliefs and our addictions. It helps us to learn how what we see, feel, think and do affect all aspects of our lives. In her interview with the podcast Recovery Unscripted, Skywood Recovery CEO Lori Ryland, PhD, CAADC, BCBA-D, explains, “Our beliefs about ourselves and our perception of situations can influence our experiences.”3 We all share experiences, but how we perceive them can vary greatly. And how we perceive or interpret these experiences then influences how we respond to them both in our thoughts and in our actions. We have beliefs about ourselves, the world and our perceptions of it. CBT works to change these beliefs so we can live better lives and be our better selves.

Lori Ryland

Want to hear more from Lori Ryland about why CBT is so effective for a variety of mental health and substance use issues? Listen to her full interview  with the Recovery Unscripted podcast. 

How CBT Helps

Although CBT is a specific treatment method, it’s also a broad category encompassing therapies like dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and trauma-focused therapies. All forms of CBT are collaborative — you work together with your therapist or treatment team to determine where you want to focus. You work together to create a plan and develop your immediate and long-term goals, and then you put in work.

CBT also involves a lot of “homework.” No, this isn’t worksheets and reading textbooks. Ryland describes CBT homework as “an opportunity to practice what you learned that day” in your home environment. CBT offers practical, real-life tools for recovery. These tools need to be tested to make sure they will work and keep working for you.3

Is CBT Right for Me?

CBT is flexible and personalized. This makes it the right choice for a lot of people looking for recovery or working on maintaining mental health. And it can adjust and grow with you as your recovery progresses. Yes, you make plans and set goals, but you also regularly check and update these. They are guides to the next steps, and once you reach these, you and your treatment team can reevaluate where you are and where you want to be. What you need in the first week of recovery isn’t the same thing you need a month later or a year later. Because CBT is customized to your unique needs and grows with you, it can help your recovery now and long into the future.

Does CBT Work?

CBT can help from the very start — it addresses negative thoughts about recovery or treatment so you can build confidence and belief in recovery. And if you have relapsed in the past, CBT is a great way to reframe your thoughts about recovery and your ability to succeed.

CBT helps you stay focused and stay in treatment. And staying in treatment is essential for success no matter what type of therapy you choose. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse shares, “Good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length … Treatment dropout is one of the major problems encountered by treatment programs; therefore, motivational techniques that can keep patients engaged will also improve outcomes.”4

CBT gets patients engaged in treatment and changes their attitudes, and therefore their actions, toward recovery. And then it offers the tools and skills needed to keep going. Psychiatric Clinics of North America shares, “In a study of psychosocial treatment for cocaine dependence … 60 percent of patients in the CBT condition provided clean toxicology screens at 52-week follow-up.”5 When addiction has relapse rates ranging from 40 to 60 percent, a tool like CBT is invaluable.6 So CBT starts working from day one, and then it keeps working. No one treatment method is right for everyone, but CBT can be a great option to try.

If you’re interested in CBT and comprehensive addiction treatment options, reach out to Black Bear Lodge. Our admissions coordinators can answer your questions about how we incorporate CBT into our treatment program. Call us to learn more about starting the personalized care that is right for you today.


1Psychotherapy.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. Accessed 5 May 2018.

2What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” American Psychological Association. Accessed 5 May 2018.

3 Condos, David and Ryland, Lori. “Utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Lori Ryland.” Recovery Unscripted. 2 May 2018. Accessed 6 May 2018.

4How Long Does Drug Addiction Treatment Usually Last?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan. 2018. Accessed 6 May 2018.

5 McHugh, Kathryn, et al. “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders.” The Psychiatric clinics of North America. 2010. Accessed 5 May 2018.

6A potential new weapon in the addiction battle: FDA-approved diabetes and obesity drugs.” ScienceDaily. 27 April 2018. Accessed 5 May 2018.