What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of short-term psychotherapy and is the combination of 2 therapeutic approaches: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. CBT is centered around the idea that what we think, how we feel, and how we behave are all closely connected and influence our well-being.
In CBT, the therapist helps the client change negative patterns of thinking and behaving by helping them become more aware of these patterns and replacing them with less harmful ones. It is often not only the situation itself that causes us problems, but the importance that we attach to them.
CBT treatment emphasizes what is going on in our current lives, rather than what has led up to our challenges. This form of treatment is highly goal-oriented and helps the client develop the coping skills to become their own therapists- that is, learning to change their own problematic thinking and behavior.
Who does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Benefit?
CBT has shown to be effective for a number of problems. You may want to ask your therapist about CBT if you struggle with one or more of the following:
- Anxiety disorders, phobias, or PTSD
- Substance misuse
- Marital problems
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorders
- Sleep disorders
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
- Identify Problems and Goals for Therapy: What problems do you want to focus on? (medical condition, divorce, grief, anger, symptoms of a mental health disorder, etc.) What goals do you hope to meet through CBT?
- Become Aware of Your Thoughts, Emotions and Beliefs About Problems: The therapist will encourage you to share your thoughts about the problems you identified, such as what you tell yourself about an experience (self-talk), how you interpret the meaning of a situation, and your beliefs about yourself, others, and events. The therapist may ask you to keep a journal of your thoughts
- Identify Negative or Inaccurate Thinking: The therapist will help you identify thoughts and behavior that might be contributing to the
problem by asking you to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and behavioral responses in different situations.
- Reshape Negative or Inaccurate Thinking: This involves asking yourself whether your view of a situation is based an inaccurate perception of what’s going on. It may seem difficult at first to change long-standing thought patterns, but it will begin to become a habit with practice. The therapist may give you homework to help you practice what you learn in therapy by applying it to your daily life.
*Sometimes CBT is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as medication
What Are the Outcomes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT may not “cure” an issue or make it go away, but it will give you the ability to cope with the issue in a healthy way, so that you can feel better about yourself and your life.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of CBT treatment:
- Approach therapy as a partnership with your therapist- Be an active participant in therapy and set goals and assess your progress together.
- Be open and honest- Your willingness to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can impact your success with CBT. Let your therapist know about any reservations you have.
- Stick to your treatment plan: Attend all sessions and put some thought into what you want to discuss at each one
- Don’t expect instant results: Working through emotional issues can be challenging. You may even feel worse initially as you confront certain issues, thoughts, and behaviors.
- Do your homework between sessions: This will help you apply what you’ve learned in sessions in real life and it will become easier.
- If therapy isn’t helping, let your therapist know: Together you can decide to make some changes or try a different approach.