September 16

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 CBT is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and change those patterns/behaviors. It is a valuable tool in mental healthcare that can considerably improve the quality of life and a person’s ability to function in daily activities. 

According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that has shown to be an effective way to target a range of mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, drug addiction, eating disorders, and severe mental illnesses. CBT is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and change those patterns/behaviors. It is a valuable tool in mental healthcare that can considerably improve the quality of life and a person’s ability to function in daily activities. This therapy can also be good for those who are not necessarily struggling with a mental health disorder, but simply struggle with stressful life situations and need help with learning how to cope.

A common form of psychotherapy, it is actually a combination of two different therapies known as cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.  

  • Cognitive therapy: This type of therapy is meant to focus on someone’s thoughts, attitudes, and expectations. A cognitive therapist will help someone recognize their thought patterns and work with them to change false or distressing ideas. Targeting negative thoughts is important in terms of how someone might perceive situations and the way it can affect their day-to-day lifeday-to-day. For example, a person might over-generalize a situation and make it out to be bigger in their heads than it actually is. The cognitive therapist would help someone recognize when they are doing this so that they can change their thoughts and they can go on with what they are doing. 
  • Behavioral therapy: The theory behind this type of therapy is that behaviors are learned and can be unlearned or changed in order to improve someone’s quality of life. A behavioral therapist will work with someone to identify the behavioral patterns that are having negative effects on their life and then help them to change those behaviors. For example, someone with panic disorder will worry about having a panic attack to the point that they will actually give themselves a panic attack and the cycle will continue. A behavioral therapist will teach that person techniques, like breathing exercises, so that they can calm themselves down when they start to have a panic attack. 


The History Behind CBT 

Cognitive behavioral therapy came about in the 1960s when it was founded by Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. Both men had been trained as psychoanalysts and were dissatisfied with the lack of results they were seeing with the therapy. They looked to develop a better and more effective way to treat anxiety, depression, and other related disorders. Ellis created rational emotive behavior therapy and Beck developed cognitive behavior therapy, which drew from the philosophies of rational emotive behavior therapy.  


Why Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t a one-size-fits all, but it is recognized for being very effective for numerous people and with a wide variety of issues. One of the biggest reasons it is so successful is because it actually focuses on identifying the issue and solving it, unlike previous approaches like psychoanalysis. It gives people the tools they need to be able to handle their problems as they come, with the end goal being to send people out of therapy and them not needing to return. Those who go through CBT are taught that they need to build new habits and continuously practice the methods shown to them in a mindful way. CBT can be helpful with the following mental health conditions: 

-Anxiety Disorders 

-Depression 

-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 

-PTSD 

-Phobias 

-Sexual Disorders 

-Sleep Disorders 

-Eating Disorders 

-Bipolar Disorders 

-Schizophrenia 

-Substance Abuse 

Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be combined with medication, such as antidepressants, for optimal treatment. There is evidence that CBT can treat those with chronic pain, as well. CBT tries to reduce pain through changing physical sensations, catastrophic thinking, and maladaptive behaviors.  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Approaches 

CBT therapists will work with people to figure out their individual approach and treatment needs are. There are a number of strategies that they might employ to address both the thought and behavior aspects of a mental health disorder. Some of those strategies could be: 
 

-Changing thought patterns by having someone realize their distorted thinking and getting them to have a more realistic viewpoint on situations. 

-Giving people better problem-solving skills so they can cope when things get hard. 

-Inspiring people to have more self-confidence in themselves and their abilities. 

-Demonstrating more of an understanding of the actions of others. 

-Having someone face their fears rather than continuing to avoid them. 

-Role-play to work through potential situations and interactions with others. 

-Teaching relaxation techniques so people are able to calm themselves when they begin to get stressed or anxious. 

 

Therapists will also assign homework so people can start to apply what they learn from their sessions in their day-to-day activities. This helps solidify the changes in thoughts and behaviors and increases the chances that someone will not need to return to therapy. The primary focus in CBT is the events going on in someone’s life currently, rather than past experiences. Although, there will be some discussion of a person’s past to give a better understanding of who they are. The point though is to look towards the present and future to develop the necessary coping skills to better handle difficult situations. 


What to Expect with CBT 

Cognitive behavioral treatment can be done in one-on-one sessions or in groups and it can take some time to find the right therapist for you, so do not feel disheartened if your therapist is not a good fit. You can generally find therapists for cognitive behavioral therapy through a referral from your general physician or through your insurance provider. Some employers also offer counseling services or referral programs as part of your health benefits package. Also, keep in mind that not all counselors have the same qualifications or titles. So, if that is something that is important to you then you need to check their credentials. For example, if you would like a therapist who can prescribe medication as well then you will need to find a licensed psychiatrist.  

 

Your first session will mostly consist of your therapist gathering your history, figuring out what your goals are and what you want to get out of therapy, and seeing if they are a good match for you. The therapist will also decide on the course of your therapy treatment and what your sessions will focus on. This is a type of talk therapy, so your therapist will encourage you to discuss your thoughts and feelings to help you begin to work through your issues. CBT is generally effective in a relatively short amount of time and sessions can range from about 5 to 20. 

 

Just remember that if you truly want CBT to be effective then that means you have to be willing to put in the work. You have to be able to be open and honest with your therapist, even if it makes you uncomfortable. They are not there to judge you, but simply to help you. You also have to be sure to attend all your sessions and not skip any, otherwise, you won’t get the full benefits. Putting in the work also means completing all “homework” assignments because they are meant to give you practice in applying what you learned in therapy to your actual life. If you feel that therapy isn’t working or your therapist isn’t for you then talk to them so that you aren’t wasting your time. They might try a different approach or may be able to refer you to another therapist. 

Are There Risks Involved with CBT? 


There is a certain kind of risk with cognitive behavioral therapy, although not the same as with medication. CBT forces you to confront uncomfortable or downright painful thoughts and experiences. This can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting. So, it is not something to consider lightly and your therapist should work with you to ensure that you maintain your boundaries.  


Want to See a Therapist? 

If you are interested in seeking help for a mental health disorder or any mental health issues you may be experiencing then reach out to Gemini Health for the appropriate treatment. Our healthcare professionals are highly skilled and experienced to provide you with quality health services. They offer both individual and group therapy, as well as access to psychiatrists for all patients. Plus, there are no wait times to join groups. Call (301) 363-1063 and speak to our staff to schedule your appointment today!   


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