Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of talk therapy that has been around since the 1960s. The main premise is that our thoughts and perceptions influence the way we feel and behave. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast. Most of us are not aware of our negative thought patterns and how they keep us depressed or anxious.
Humans tend to believe the things our brains tell us at face value without questioning or challenging them. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. Negative thoughts can create a system-wide domino effect if we don’t catch them. CBT helps us pinpoint where things go wrong in our thoughts and perceptions. Identifying these “thinking errors” allows us to then tweak our thoughts so that they are more helpful and positive. Let’s take a look at how this works using the cognitive model.
The Cognitive Model
Let’s use the example of someone with anxiety and low self-esteem walking down a busy street. This person sees a stranger look at her and thinks, “They probably think I look weird. Maybe I’m walking wrong? I’m so awkward.” These “automatic thoughts” make this person feel embarrassed and nervous. This feeling then leads to the behavior of ruminating or overthinking the entire situation for the rest of her day. How could this situation have gone differently?
If the person in the example would have challenged the negative thought/”thinking error” (in this case, known as mind reading), the situation would have been much better. Maybe the stranger is having a bad day and has been giving everyone that kind of look. Maybe the stranger wasn’t thinking about them at all. These thoughts could have prevented their anxiety and embarrassment, and they would have gone about their day without giving that encounter a second thought.
CBT focuses on patterns of thinking and helps individuals understand why they’re there in the first place. It can also do much more, such as help identify core beliefs, set realistic goals, hone problem-solving skills, and build self-confidence.
CBT sounds intimidating at first – but finding the right therapist that can help guide you in the right direction makes a huge difference. Intrigued by CBT and wondering how it could work for you? Reach out to us at Calm Mind Counseling Center, where our licensed clinicians can determine if CBT could be a part of your holistic treatment plan.