Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a therapeutic intervention used by mental health professionals that is proved to be effective with the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders. CBT places an emphasis on clients helping themselves through analyzing thinking processes and identifying patterns in behavior. The focus of the technique is moving forward from the past and finding ways to cope with the challenges of life.
The development of CBT is based on 3 core principles:
- Core Beliefs: individuals are a direct result of their childhood experiences. They shape the way people view themselves, their environment, their beliefs, and their thoughts of the future.
- Assumptions: people tend to make assumptions based on their ways of thinking. These are usually negative perceptions of reality due to irrational thought patterns.
- Automatic Negative Thoughts: these are thoughts that automatically turn negative in our minds because of the way we perceive information. Thoughts will trigger unpleasant or negative emotions in which we may act on.
CBT is also the understanding of the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When a situation happens, our brains automatically have thoughts about the event. These thoughts will then trigger either a positive or negative emotion. Emotions are then what causes our behaviors and how we act.
When engaging with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, you will notice certain areas of focus. These may include:
- Recognizing irrational thinking and learning to reframe thought processes
- Understanding the motivation to your behaviors
- Learning problem-solving skills
- Gaining confidence in personal skills and abilities
- Facing your fears
- Talking through problematic situations
- Learning effective coping skills to calm and relax the mind
While these are some common examples of CBT, the focus of CBT practices depends on the client’s needs. A collaboration with a mental health professional can help develop an effective treatment plan based around personal goals.
Why Use CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a useful tool because it can quickly help people identify and cope with life stresses and challenges. It follows a specific structure, and generally only needs a few sessions to complete. The focus is on identifying and expressing emotions, communication, learning coping skills, and managing physical and mental symptoms of different disorders. In some cases, CBT is most effective when it is paired with other treatments such as prescription medications.
Therapists and psychologists use CBT to treat a wide variety of issues, such as:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Personality Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Substance Use Disorders
This technique is also used to treat non-psychological conditions:
- Chronic Pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Lastly, CBT can be useful for many different life changes as well:
- Relationship issues
- Struggles at work
- Grief and loss
- Stress management
How to Know If CBT Is Right for You?
First and foremost, it’s important to know that cognitive behavioral therapy is centered around skill-based dialogue, or talking. It involves help from a professional who provides a nonjudgmental, safe, and welcoming environment that encourages vulnerability. Together, you will create and work towards a treatment goal.
At the start of therapy, build trust with your therapist by disclosing the challenges, symptoms, and stresses you’ve been experiencing. Depending on the situation, your therapist will then ask questions about your past, potential fears or phobias, troubling behaviors, and irrational thoughts. You will then identify patterns connecting your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and discover what you need in order to overcome these issues.
CBT may cause some emotional distress and uncomfortable feelings; but remember that this is all part of the healing process. If you notice yourself struggling with your mental health, and you feel that CBT and talk therapy may benefit you, reach out to a local therapist today!