Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy based on modifying everyday thoughts and behaviors, with the aim of positively influencing emotions. The general approach developed out of behavior modification and cognitive therapy, and has become widely used to treat mental disorders. CBT is widely accepted as an evidence-based, cost-effective psychotherapy for many disorders. In CBT, the therapist identifies faulty patterns of thought process, interpretations, emotional reactions and dysfunctional behavior. Then the therapist clarifies implications of such thought patterns, emotional reactions and interpretations and suggests ways and means for overcoming the problem.
Cognitive behavior therapy postulates that feelings and behaviors are caused by a person’s thoughts, not on outside stimuli like people, situations and events. People may not be able to change their circumstances, but they can change how they think about them and therefore change how they feel and behave, according to cognitive-behavior therapists.
CBT is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion) and how we act (behavior) all interact together. Specifically, our thoughtsdetermine our feelings and our behavior. Therefore, negative – and unrealistic – thoughts can cause us distress and result in problems. CBT can help break this vicious circle of altered thinking, feelings and behavior. When one sees the parts of the sequence clearly, one can change them – and so change the way he/she feels.
The Cognitive Side
Cognition is defined as the psychological result of perception, learning, and reasoning. Simply put, thoughts have an enormous impact on our mental health. Cognitive Therapy is not as simple as thinking positive. Human thought is complex, and changing the way we think can mean attempting to undo years of thought patterns. Some of these thought patterns may be negative and automatic.
We are all inherently imaginative beings with an endless amount of thoughts zipping in and out of our minds throughout the day. When these thoughts are negative in nature, they begin to disrupt our lives and slowly change our perspective from one that creatively visualizes to one that only has the capacity for negative visualization. Thoughts like, “We are all going to die anyway, so what’s the point in doing anything at all?” often carry great emotional weight without any real solution. A major part of eliminating damaging automatic thoughts is to determine the core beliefs that these thoughts are rooted in.
Core beliefs can be divided into two categories: those of helplessness, and those ofunlovability. For example, a person may have the automatic thought, “I can’t get along with anyone,” which stems from the unlovable core beliefs. The automatic thought “I can’t control my feelings anymore” is rooted in a helpless core belief structure.
By changing our core beliefs and the resulting automatic thoughts, we can change overall perceptions, feelings, and actions.
The Behavior Side
The way we think and feel usually determines the actions that we take. If a person believes that he or she is unlovable, he or she may take actions to avoid being in relationships, something that could further validate their core belief. If someone thinks they are worthless, he or she may participate in dangerous, impulsive activity. Thoughts, feelings, and actions are completely linked together. By changing thought processes, actions can be changed as well.
The first step to addressing an emotional disturbance is to become aware of the thoughts and feelings that drive it. Actively investigating the thought processes from both a cognitive and a behavioral point of view can dramatically affect our ability to resolve any emotional disturbance permanently.
How does CBT work?
One of the objectives of CBT typically is to identify and monitor thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that are related and accompanied to debilitating negative emotions and to identify those which are dysfunctional, inaccurate, or simply unhelpful. This is done in an effort to in a wide array of different methodologies replace or transcend them with more realistic and self-helping ways.
It helps you challenge your negative beliefs and to think about times when you have been successful or to consider what happens to other people in similar situations. Once you are thinking more realistically, you are encouraged to imagine how you would go about confronting a feared situation. You will then be gradually exposed to real life situations.
The aim of CBT is to provide you with a timescale for overcoming a problem and to give you the insight and skills to improve your quality of life. You will then be able to cope and progress on your own once therapy is finished.
What problems can CBT help?
CBT can help people who have: anger issues, anxiety and panic attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, drug or alcohol problems, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, persistent pain, phobias, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, sexual or relationship issues or sleep problems. Daily life problems, such as difficulty establishing or staying in relationships, problems with marriage or other relationships you’re already in, job, career or school difficulties, feelings of being “stressed out”, insufficient self-esteem (accepting or respecting yourself), inadequate coping skills, or ill-chosen methods of coping can also be benefited by CBT.
How Long Does Cognitive Behavior Therapy Take?
Cognitive behavioral therapy generally is not an overnight process. Even after patients have learned to recognize when and where their mental processes go awry, it can take months of effort to replace a dysfunctional cognitive-affective-behavioral process or habit with a more reasonable and adaptive one. Because cognitive behavior therapy is a structured, goal-oriented educational process focused on the immediate problems of the alcohol or drug-dependent patient, the process is usually short-term. Although other forms of therapy and psychoanalysis can take years, cognitive behavior therapy is usually completed in 12 to 16 sessions with the therapist.