What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively.”
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) isn’t a new concept; it’s been around for over 80 years. But, in recent years, it’s made a comeback as a useful and reliable approach. It’s being hailed as highly successful in the way it provides day-to-day relief from many mental health issues.
CBT is a blend of cognitive and behavioral therapy treatments that were developed in the 1960s by Aaron T. Beck.
This type of psychotherapy is based on the belief that our thinking controls how our lives turn out. In other words, how we think (cognition), the way we act (behavior), and the way we feel (emotion) are all connected.
The main focus of almost every CBT session is on how to shift our thinking from negative to positive. It also aims at overcoming self-defeating behavior, which can ultimately lead to recurring episodes of depression and anxiety.
CBT can work on its own or in combination with other types of therapies. Either way, it helps us reduce our anxiety levels. More importantly, it teaches us various hands-on ways to deal with stressful situations.
The job of a CBT therapist is to try and get us to change our negative thought patterns to be more positive and hopeful. By changing our thinking, we can regain control over our lives. They encourage us to shift our mindsets for the better, regardless of what’s going on in our lives.
CBT is suitable for many types of mental and emotional health challenges. It’s more typically used to help treat the following:
- Anxiety and mood disorders
- Various disorders, such as PTSD, eating, or panic disorders
- Anger management
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep disorders
- Sexual disorders
- Certain phobias, such as agoraphobia
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Goals
CBT has proven to be effective in allowing us to take charge of our lives, rather than allowing external forces to manipulate us. One way it’s proven its success is that it sets realistic goals. It also encourages clients to take an active part in therapy by directing their attention to the present instead of focusing on the past.
Most therapists will assign clients various tasks to complete on their own. These tasks are an opportunity to modify thought patterns. They also help establish healthy, practical coping methods.
Check out a few other goals that you can achieve through CBT:
- Recognize that you’ve become stuck in a pattern of unhealthy thought patterns
- Turn negative thoughts into positive, more realistic ones
- Make the right choices in difficult situations
- Have faith in your ability to make good choices
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sessions
The beauty of CBT is that it doesn’t stick to one formula and try to apply it to everyone. It’s easily customizable based on the individual’s needs.
Yet, every therapist has one aim in mind: to help their client achieve a certain goal. Depending on the situation, each goal has to be SMART, as in:
- Specific to you and the current events happening in your life
- Measurable goals need to be broken down into elements you can gauge and assess weekly
- Achievable goals are those that get you out of your comfort zone while still being possible to do
- Realistic goals give you a practical target to strive toward and help contribute to what you want to achieve in life
- Time-bound goals have a start and completion date so you can learn how to divide your time wisely and get more done.
Here’s a general outline of what you can expect to happen in a CBT session:
- Check the overall mood
- Review events of the previous week and identify negative thoughts
- Talk about the assigned ‘task’ including which goals were met and which weren’t
- Discuss how to reshape thinking patterns that may be contributing to the problem
- Set a new set of goals for the upcoming week
- Assign a new ‘task’
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Pros and Cons
We’ve seen how CBT is effective and can be useful in treating many mental health issues. Yet, as with everything, it has its benefits and drawbacks.
- Is considered to be short-term compared with other forms of therapy
- Works great in cases where medicine, like antidepressants, doesn’t work by itself
- CBT techniques are available in different formats, such as self-help books, group therapies, and apps
- Teaches practical coping methods that you can apply in everyday life, both during and after treatment
- Isn’t suited for those with learning difficulties or complex mental health issues
- Doesn’t delve into past problems, which could be the underlying cause of the problem
- Regular CBT sessions and ‘tasks’ can be time-consuming
- Involves facing your anxiety, which can be difficult for some people
A Final Note
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has become a highly sought-after treatment method. It’s suitable for many mental health issues because it can be customized to each client’s individual needs.
In general, there is very little risk associated with CBT, aside from the discomfort you might experience from facing certain painful feelings, emotions, or other issues head-on.
Find a knowledgeable therapist who can help you pinpoint the right CBT techniques for you. This way, you get personalized treatment to help bring about the positive changes you need in your life. If used properly, CBT can improve your life.
Be well + prosper,