Cognitive Behavioral Health Therapy
What’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you recognize and control your automatic thoughts (which tend to be negative). It also teaches you ways to change dysfunctional behavior patterns. CBT teaches that while you can't control every single aspect of the universe, you can control how you interpret what happens.
Some other therapy types focus on how past events affect your current state of mind. However, CBT emphasizes the present—not something that happened long ago. Once you embark on a course of treatment, you’ll cultivate thought patterns that allow you to live life at the highest levels instead of destroying your happiness.
CBT can be a powerful tool in treating mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Some individuals experiencing distortions in their thought processes might only need CBT. Other people may find it to be a helpful adjunct to the medications they're taking.
It's beneficial in treating mental illnesses when medications aren't a good option.
CBT tends to be shorter than most other types of therapy—usually, five to 20 sessions. Because it's quicker, it's typically more affordable.
What’s the Goal of CBT?
While specific objectives should be set by you and your therapist, the goal of CBT is typically to transform your negative thoughts into positive feelings and behaviors.
In other words, replacing unhelpful or self-defeating thoughts with more self-affirming ones. For example, "I'll never be a successful painter" might become "If I paint every day, I'll become a more proficient painter over time. However, I must remember that success in this area is subjective. It might help if I could define what success means in a way that's achievable for me."
What Happens During the First Session?
CBT typically focuses on specific problems using a goal-oriented approach. During your first session, your clinician will gather information about you and what issues you’d like to work on.
This includes the emotions, feelings, and symptoms you’re experiencing. However, because emotional distress can manifest physically, they’ll also ask you about symptoms such as body aches, headaches, or stomach upset.
Because your practitioner will encourage you to talk about your thoughts and feelings and what’s troubling you, CBT may cause you to feel emotionally uncomfortable at times.
You may cry, feel angry, or get upset during a session. Some forms of CBT (such as exposure therapy) might require you to confront situations you’d rather avoid. For example, airplanes if you have a fear of flying. However, a psychotherapist trained in CBT can help you deal with these distressing emotions.
Once your therapy is complete, you'll have the coping skills to ensure dysfunctional thoughts no longer undermine your quality of life.
A Proactive Role in Your Treatment
The goal of CBT is to get you to overcome problems on your own using the tools you learned in therapy. This allows you to take a proactive role in your recovery. This can be incredibly empowering for people accustomed to treatment encouraging clients to be passive therapy recipients instead of active participants.
The CBT Process
Identify Troubling Situations: Before embarking on the therapeutic journey, you'll need to pick a problem to work on, such as divorce, grief, a medical condition, or excessive anger.
Become Aware of your Thoughts: Once you've identified an issue, your therapist will encourage you to share your thoughts directly with them or in a journal. This might include observing what you tell yourself about an experience, your interpretation of the meaning of circumstances, and your beliefs about yourself, other individuals, and events.
Identify Inaccurate Thinking: To assist you in recognizing patterns of thinking and behavior contributing to your problem, your therapist typically will ask you to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and behavioral responses in different situations.
Reshape Negative Thoughts: You'll reshape negative thoughts by looking at a situation and deciding whether your view of it is based on fact or an inaccurate perception of what's happening.
CBT techniques can range from structured psychotherapies to self-help practices. For example, your practitioner might challenge you to replace negative self-talk with more constructive and compassionate self-talk.
Your therapist will have you look at the cognitive distortions in your thoughts so you can see how they contribute to your misery. One potent technique is situation exposure. This is where you list situations that cause distress according to the level of stress they cause. Then, you'll gradually expose yourself to the things on the list until they no longer have the ability to upset you.
You’ll learn new skills you can use in real-world situations. If you have a substance abuse disorder, you might rehearse ways to avoid social situations that could trigger a relapse.
Part of your therapy might be mindfulness meditation. By watching thoughts that come into your mind and letting them pass without judgment, you’ll sap them of their emotional power.
Homework is an integral part of CBT regardless of the techniques you use. Just like academic assignments help you internalize the skills you learned in class, CBT homework help you become familiar with the skill sets you're developing.
What CBT Can Help You With
CBT can help with the following mental health conditions:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
However, it might even be able to help you if you don't have a mental health condition. This means it could be helpful in the following situations:
Breakup or Divorce
A Serious Health Diagnosis, such as Cancer
Grief or Loss
Is CBT Effective?
CBT has been exhaustively researched and found to be effective. For many mental health conditions, it’s the best treatment available. In fact, it’s the leading evidence-based treatment for eating disorders.
A 2018 study found overwhelming evidence to suggest that CBT could provide significant relief for anxiety disorders, OCD, and PTSD. Another study conducted the same year found that CBT had excellent long-term results when treating anxiety in young people.
More than 50% in this study no longer met the criteria for anxiety during a follow-up two years after completing therapy. It's been found to not only successfully treat depression but also help reduce the chances of relapse after treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sub-Types
There are various sub-types of CBT therapy. These types include:
This therapy slowly introduces anxiety-inducing situations into your life for discrete periods, such as one to two hours three times a day. Exposure therapy is particularly effective for individuals dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or phobias.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
While dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was initially formulated to help those with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it's since been adapted to treat other mental health conditions. For example, people who cannot regulate their emotions or exhibit self-destructive behaviors typically respond well to this form of therapy.
Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) teaches clients to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with emotions. Instead, they learn to accept that these feelings are appropriate responses in most situations.