The ABCs of CBT


The ABCs of CBT by Mike Searles

Mike Searles is an addiction survivor and freelance writer on addiction, rehab and recovery. 

I'm no white-coat nor academic and I'm guessing you're not either so let's forego all the high-brow stuff and ease into the KISS style of conversation...


This sounds like harsh language to use however the point is important, the solution to most issues is much more simple and accessible than you may think.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive = thoughts
Behavioral = the things you do
Therapy = woah! Ain't this a can of baked-beans. Let’s check the all-knowing dictionary... Google!

-therapy (noun) the treatment of mental or psychological disorders by psychological means-

How is CBT delivered?

You talk and listen. Therapist talks and listens. Repeat. You gain insight and get better.

Let’s dig in...


Have you heard the name Albert Ellis before?


Sounds a bit like 'Albert Einstein' but they're two totally different characters. Although Albert Ellis, who passed away in New York in 2007 at age 93, was one very clever guy.


I credit Albert Ellis and his wonderful book, A Guide to Rational Living, for indirectly contributing to a huge part of my own eventual long-term recovery from drugs/booze addiction.


Albert Ellis was an American psychotherapist and psychologist who designed a brand of CBT he named Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).



Are all these acronyms giving you a nosebleed yet?

The three simple pillars on which Ellis's REBT are built

A = Activating Events
B = Belief/Behavior
C = Consequences

Let's say I'm the client engaged in REBT. I'm having a convo with the therapist. I'll tag the sentences with ABC to highlight the three pillars being raised in my dialogue.

'I lost my wallet with 800 bucks in it. By the time I got home I was going bat-crazy because it's half my overdue rent money!' (A = activating event)

'I shouldn't lose my money like that. I'm such a flip wit! It's all my fault. Because, I ended up so stressed out and thinking that I can't pay the rent now anyway -- I used the other rent money I had stooked at home and went out and scored. (B = beliefs/behavior)

'Now I've relapsed, can’t pay my rent, and hating myself for it all.' (C = consequences)

Albert Ellis might respond, "What's happened is not more important to you right now compared to what you’re thinking and feeling about what happened. And more importantly - what you do next."

REBT and Albert Ellis (indirectly) helped me get and stay sober.

If anybody involved in your rehab and recovery offers you any brand of CBT jump at it. Be ready to dive deep and keep an open mind.

CBT can and should take you to the edge of your comfort zone. Maybe even have you lean into the zone of discomfort. I found it’s a safe place to be when in the hands of somebody who knows what they’re doing. Lean forward my friend!

The zone of discomfort is where a ‘recovery epiphany’ may be waiting.


Mike Searles is an addiction survivor and

freelance writer on addiction, rehab, and recovery