It’s marvelous how the human brain works and how little thoughts can affect people’s actions. Once you understand the process, you can implement healthier thinking patterns more effectively. This is where cognitive behavioral therapy CBT comes into action.
In this article, we’re going to explore what CBT is all about. Moreover, we’ll discuss the way such types of therapy work and what to keep in mind when considering CBT.
So, what is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Table of Contents
- 1 ABOUT COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
- 2 HOW DOES COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY WORK?
- 3 CBT STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES
- 4 WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE CHOOSING COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
- 5 CONCLUSION
ABOUT COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based type of talk therapy that focuses on mental and emotional issues patients suffer from. Unlike psychoanalysis, which addresses a patient’s past, CBT works on finding solutions for current problems of patients of all ages– children, adolescents, young adults, and elders.
Basically, CBT integrates the principles of cognitive therapy with behavior therapy. It works by identifying harmful patterns of thinking and replacing them with healthier alternatives.
Mainly, it’s one of the best and most common forms of short-term effective treatment. That’s why counselors, therapists, and psychologists use it to aid patients in managing emotional concerns and mental health issues.
Primarily, such forms of psychotherapy give people a valuable tool, teaching them how to help themselves. The end goal is to learn how to cope with daily life issues without needing additional therapy.
That said, CBT involves various approaches depending on the specific mental health concern, these form of CBT are:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
The History of CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy evolved as psychologists tried to understand how thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all connected. Mainly, the starting point was back in the early 1900s, focusing on the effects of the environment on people’s behaviors.
In the 1950s, a psychologist named Albert Ellis started discussing how our beliefs, especially the irrational type, can affect our emotions. Following him, Dr. Aaron Beck developed cognitive behavioral therapy after noticing how depressed people often had cognitive distortion thoughts.
After years and tons of research proving CBT’s effectiveness, it became a widely accepted mental health therapy approach. Luckily, modern technology has made CBT more accessible for people than ever, from online platforms to virtual therapy sessions.
The Types of Issues CBT Helps Treat
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a therapeutic approach intervention effective in treating many mental health conditions or mental illness and behavioral challenges, such as:
- Anxiety Disorders (From social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder to panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD), phobias, eating disorders, schizophrenia
- Mood Disorders (Including depressive disorder and bipolar disorder (besides medication)
- Personality Disorders (Borderline and other personality disorders)
- Substance Abuse (As a part of addiction treatment)
- Physical Issues (long-term health conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), etc.)
Core Principles of CBT
Following her father’s steps, Dr. Judith S. Beck made remarkable progress with CBT, developing ten core principles, which are:
- Individualized Understanding: CBT adapts to each patient’s needs by identifying their current thinking patterns.
- Therapeutic Alliance: A trusting relationship between the therapist and patient is required by providing warmth, empathy, care, and competence.
- Collaboration and Active Engagement: CBT encourages being an active participant for lasting positive change. Through the process, the therapist and patient decide together what issues to address and how often.
- Goal-Oriented Problem Solving: From the start, CBT encourages patients to set their own specific goals. Later, they use these goals to assess and respond to thoughts affecting their progress.
- Emphasizing the Present: CBT focuses on current challenges and difficult situations happening in the present. Yet, the past still matters as the patient tries to understand the dysfunctional thinking and behavioral patterns involved.
- Empowering Patients: CBT is an educative method that teaches patients to become their own therapists. Through such an approach, they learn to understand, identify, and evaluate their thoughts.
- Time-Limited Treatment: Overall, CBT is a time-efficient treatment. Although it usually takes less than 14 sessions to treat straightforward cases like depression and anxiety, more complex issues may require years if necessary.
- Structured Sessions: A CBT session often has an introduction, especially on your first session (mood check, brief review, agenda setting), a middle (homework review, discussing issues, new homework assignment setting), and an end (eliciting feedback).
- Thought Management: Through CBT, patients learn to identify dysfunctional thoughts and adopt more realistic perspectives. CBT therapists do that by guiding them into questioning their thoughts and evaluating the way they think.
- Diverse Techniques for Change: CBT employs different techniques to modify thinking, mood, and behavior. The type of technique chosen by the therapist depends on the patient’s conceptualization, the issue at hand, and the session’s objectives.
HOW DOES COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY WORK?
CBT treatment provides a comfortable and safe environment for patients to talk freely without the fear of judgment. Following such types of treatment plans, a mental health professional helps you identify and address the issues you’re having.
Typically, CBT requires a period of time (approximately 5—20 sessions). Moreover, it may involve some potentially stressful activities for patients with certain conditions. However, you can start noticing tremendous progress if you consider your cognitive-behavioral therapist as a partner.
Although the process varies from one person to the other, CBT treatment options usually involve the following:
1. Assessing the Case
Primarily, it all starts with an assessment where you (as a patient) discuss your challenges, concerns, and goals with the therapist. Together, you can set achievable goals to work towards during the treatment.
Such a phase often involves filling out questionnaires and forms. Plus, you keep doing that from time to time. As a result, the therapist becomes able to track your progress and pinpoint the issues that may need extra focus.
2. Educating the Patient
After identifying the problem, your therapist should provide you with materials to better educate you about the issue. Furthermore, upon gaining insight into the overall issue, the therapist also starts introducing CBT techniques designed to fit your needs.
In all cases, a comprehensive understanding of mental challenges should help a person deal with unhelpful behavior patterns.
3. Goal Setting
Working with your therapist, you should conclude a list of goals you want to reach. This requires the ability to distinguish the difference between long and short-term goals. In addition, it may also involve teaching you about SMART goals and how they work.
For example, your end goal may be handling negative emotions, developing a positive mindset, or even improving time management skills. All in all, to reach your end goals, you and your therapist need to work on some practical strategies.
4. Strategy and Skill Practicing
Once you learn the strategies you need to improve, you start practicing them with the therapist. For instance, such strategies can teach you how to deal with stressful situations or how to handle real-life instances.
Moreover, some coping skills may help a person with substance use disorder identify triggers and avoid relapses.
Therapy doesn’t stop when the session stops. Instead, you’re expected to carry on with the skills and strategies you learned through your everyday life.
You can think of it as homework where the therapist waits for you to report the results. To do that, you may need to keep a diary as a form of self-monitoring. Such a technique can aid you in tracking emotions and behaviors to share with the therapist later on.
CBT STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES
CBT employs various techniques, each tailored to a patient’s specific needs. Such techniques can help modify negative thought patterns, manage emotions, and promote positive behavior change.
Overall, some of the most common techniques used in CBT are:
- Cognitive restructuring
- Exposure therapy
- Mindfulness meditation and relaxation techniques
- Feeling charts
- Visualization and imagery
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE CHOOSING COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
Although proven successful, CBT isn’t the magical solution for all problems. So, here are a few points to take into consideration before deciding to try CBT.
- Nature of the Issue: While CBT is highly versatile, other therapeutic approaches may be more suitable for certain problems. That’s especially true with conditions where a person’s rational thinking isn’t reliable.
- Personal Readiness: In general, if you’re not open to self-reflection and not ready for active participation, you may not receive the desired outcome from this type of therapy.
- Mutual Understanding: Since you’re going to work with a certain therapist for many sessions, it’s essential to be comfortable. So, you need to find a person that you can trust and respect.
- Time Commitment: Despite being a short-term form of psychological therapy, CBT still requires time and commitment. Dedicating time for sessions, practice, and homework can have remarkable outcomes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a huge step toward a better quality of life. It’s more of a teamwork between you and the therapist. Through the process, you learn more about yourself and how negative thinking can have a huge impact on your well-being.
Eventually, you become able to develop coping skills and mechanisms to help you build a happier version of yourself. That said, it’s necessary to know what you want from therapy and appreciate how proper healthcare can help you cope with the real-world situation.
Generally, finding a therapist you can connect with and being ready to put in the effort are huge factors to consider. As you go through the sessions, remember that progress happens step-by-step. So, try to be patient.