Cognitive behavioral education (CBE) should not be mistaken for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or vice versa. Unfortunately, their names are similar. Worse, their acronyms, CBE and CBT, sound almost identical. This confuses the public.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly evidence-based therapeutic approach widely used for alcoholism and drug addiction. This technique has also long been used for other problems such as depression, psychotic disorders, anxiety, criminal behaviors, bulimia, bipolar disorder, and many others.
CBT is based on the fact that maladaptive cognitions (beliefs and ideas) are important in creating emotional distress and problem behaviors. Changing these cognitions leads to better emotions and behaviors.
CBT clients are active participants in a collaborative problem-solving process. They work to change problem-creating cognitions and to change problem behaviors. Clients are taught the information, skills, and techniques to help them achieve the objectives they set for themselves.
The time frame is generally short term. It typically lasts four to six weeks and is offered on an out-client basis. However, because of its effectiveness, it is also typically offered as part of residential rehabs.
Extensive research has shown the effectiveness of CBT and it is well-known. Many clients will only attend a rehab that offers it.
Cognitive Behavioral Education
Cognitive behavioral education shares some features with cognitive behavioral therapy. Both recognize that alcohol and drug problems result from personal decisions. Both recognize that individuals can change their cognitions and behaviors. And both treat clients with dignity. However, they are different in many very important ways:
|Cognitive Behavioral Therapy||Cognitive Behavioral Education|
|Developed by renowned psychologists.||Developed by laypersons without psychological training.|
|Based on established psychological principles.||Based on philosophy.|
|Hundreds of published research reports.||No published research report to date.|
|Scientifically proven effective.||Not scientifically proven effective.|
|Widely recognized by psychological and other professional associations.||Not recognized by any psychological or other professional association.|
|Described in psychology dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks,and other reference works.||Not described in any psychology dictionary, encyclopedia, handbook, or other reference work.|
|Owned by no one. Freely shared with other professionals for good of clients and society.||Owned by one corporation, Baldwin Research Institute. Not shared with professionals.|
|Claims of effectiveness made by qualified researchers without any conflicts of interest.||Claims of effectiveness made by corporation offering the program for money.|
Current State of Cognitive Behavioral Education
After many years, no scientific, professional, or governmental body recognizes cognitive behavioral education. Nor is there evidence that it is effective in helping those with alcohol or drug problems. This does not mean that CBE is not effective. It means that after a quarter century there is no scientific evidence that it is.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that any other educational approach is effective. A landmark study by Dr. William R. Miller and colleagues discovered this. They examined the effectiveness of 48 different treatments for alcoholism. To do so, they combined the results of 381 controlled trials. Those trials compared the effectiveness of a treatment method with either no treatment or with other alcoholism treatments.
Based on the evidence, the treatments were ranked from #1 (the most effective) to #48 (the least effective). The researchers found that the very poorest approach, ranked at the bottom at #48, consisted of educational techniques.1
There is no scientific evidence that cognitive behavioral education is effective. Even worse, there is no reason to believe that it might be effective.
Further Information on Cognitive Behavioral Education
Cognitive Behavioral Education (CBE). Web page of the corporation, Baldwin Research, that owns the St. Jude Retreats.
Cognitive Behavioral Learning. Description of Cognitive Behavioral Education by the director of the St. Jude Retreats, Mr. Mark Scheeren.
1. Miller, W., et al. What works? A summary of alcohol treatment outcome research. In: Hester, R. and Miller, W. (Eds.), Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches. Effective Alternatives. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2003. Pp. 13-63.