What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Image of brain and finger tapping itCBT emerged during the 1960s and originated in the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck, who noted that certain types of thinking contributed to emotional problems. Beck labeled these ‘automatic negative thoughts’ and developed the process of cognitive therapy.

Where earlier behavior therapies had focused almost exclusively on associations, reinforcements, and punishments to modify behavior, the cognitive approach addressed how thoughts and feelings affect behaviors. Since then, CBT has emerged as an effective first-line treatment for a wide range of disorders and conditions.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that can contribute to and worsen emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These spontaneous negative thoughts have a detrimental influence on mood. Through CBT, these thoughts are identified, challenged, and replaced with more objective, realistic thoughts.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy works to address the underlying thought patterns that contribute to psychological distress.

How Does CBT Work?

Cognitive-behavior therapy can be effectively used as a short-term treatment centered on helping people with a very specific problem. It is highly goal-oriented and focused, with the therapist taking a very active role. People work with their therapist toward mutually established goals. The process is explained in detail and people are often given homework to complete between sessions.

CBT is about more than identifying thought patterns; it is focused on using a wide range of strategies to help people overcome these thoughts. Such strategies may include journaling, role-playing, relaxation techniques, and mental distractions.

CBT Challenges Your Flawed Beliefs

People often experience thoughts or feelings that reinforce or compound faulty beliefs. Such beliefs can result in problematic behaviors that can affect numerous life areas, including family, romantic relationships, work, and academics.

Identify Negative Thoughts

It is important to learn how thoughts, feelings, and situations can contribute to maladaptive behaviors. While introspection can be The process can be difficult so some, it can ultimately lead to self-discovery and insights that are an essential part of the treatment process.

Practice New Skills

It is important to start practicing new skills that can then be put in to use in real-world situations. For example, a person with a substance use disorder might start practicing new coping skills and rehearsing ways to avoid or deal with social situations that could potentially trigger a relapse.

Progress Gradually

In most cases, CBT is a gradual process that helps a person take incremental steps towards a behavior change. For example, someone with social anxiety might start by simply imagining anxiety-provoking social situations. Next, they might start practicing conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances. By progressively working toward a larger goal, the process seems less daunting and the goals easier to achieve.

row of colorful dandelions

What Can CBT Help With?

CBT is used to treat a wide range of conditions including:

  • Phobias
  • Addictions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Problems with stress
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger issues

The Goal of CBT Therapy

The underlying concept behind CBT is that thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in behavior. For example, a person who spends a lot of time thinking about plane crashes, runway accidents, and other air disasters avoid air travel as a result.

The goal of cognitive behavior therapy is to teach people that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Effective

beach stones piled a shoreCognitive behavior therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years with both mental health consumers and treatment professionals. Some reasons for this:

  • CBT can be an effective short-term treatment option
  • It is often more affordable than some other types of therapy
  • It is empirically supported and has been shown to effectively help patients overcome a wide variety of maladaptive behaviors.
  • By becoming aware of the negative and often unrealistic thoughts that dampen their feelings and moods, people are able to start engaging in healthier thinking patterns.
  • It can help people with certain types of emotional distress that don’t require psychotropic medication.
  • One of the greatest benefits of cognitive-behavior therapy is that it helps clients develop coping skills that can be useful both now and in the future.

Learn More How CBT Can Help You

CBT is one of the most researched types of therapy, in part because treatment is focused on highly specific goals and results can be measured relatively easily.

Cognitive-behavior therapy can be an effective treatment choice for a range of psychological issues. If you feel that you might benefit from this form of therapy and would like a free consultation with Valerie Dawson to discuss if CBT might be right for you, click here.