Cognitive Behavior Therapy has become very popular over the years. It can be used to help people overcome many disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders.
This psychotherapy has proven itself to be an effective short term treatment for anxiety and similar disorders and has proven to give lasting results.
What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT for short, is psychotherapy that aims to help people to change their behavior by identifying and changing destructive or negative thought patterns. It stands on the basis that our thoughts affect our emotions and behaviors.
And thus, by challenging and replacing these irrational and incorrect thought patterns, the person’s emotions and behavioral patterns will also follow suit.
CBT uses a wide range of strategies and tools to achieve thought and behavioral transformation. This includes, and is not limited to, journaling, learning to focus on something else, relaxation techniques, role-playing, and exposure to trigger stimuli.
CBT is also a very popular therapy because the results are easily measurable. Goals are set during therapy sessions and assignments are given to help achieve the goal.
Additionally, CBT can also be used with a combination of other therapies when treating mental health disorders. It’s good to note that not everyone who goes for CBT has a mental health disorder. CBT is also a very useful tool for people who want to better manage stressful life events.
A short history of CBT
Before CBT, behavior therapies were largely based on reinforcement and punishments as well as classical conditioning in changing behavior.
CBT was founded by Aaron T. Beck in the early 1960s. Beck found that certain thoughts played a role in causing emotional distress, as compared to Freud’s theory that a person’s issues are caused by unresolved unconscious thoughts and desires.
While behavior therapy and cognitive therapy were initially compared against each other, the 1980s saw the two previously distinct therapies start to merge into cognitive behavioral therapy. Many successful treatments were developed out of CBT and until today, it is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy.
As CBT is very structured, you can expect it to include the following steps:
- Identify the issue. Although it might not seem like something you want to do, knowing what are the issues that are troubling you will enable you and your therapist to decide on what you want to work on, come up with a plan and set reachable goals.
- Becoming aware of thought processes, emotions and beliefs regarding the problem identified. At this point, your therapist may ask you to start a journal in order for you to have a better view of your thoughts, and emotions as well as your belief system.
- Identify inaccurate and negative thoughts. Once you are aware of your thoughts, it is time to recognize the inaccurate thoughts on the issue you are facing. Doing so will help you to see how these thoughts influence your behavior.
- Renewing your mind. This is most probably one of the hardest steps in CBT as you will be required to change the way you think about certain things. You will be encouraged to assess if your views on the issues are based on fact or whether it is due to thought inaccuracies.
Your therapist will also teach you how to replace the negative thoughts with a more positive thought process. Positive and accurate thoughts will then result in positive behavioral changes.
Impact of Cognitive Behavior Therapy
CBT is often used because not only is it a very fast method, but also a therapy that helps you to overcome specific issues. It also gives you the tools to overcome future challenges that might come your way.
As the common goal in CBT is to help people to realize that they can control their thoughts and behavior, no matter what is going on around them. As such, it is a tool that helps with a wide range of challenges, such as:
- Identifying and managing thoughts and emotions.
- Managing mental illness and preventing relapse of mental illness symptoms.
- An alternative treatment for mental illness if medication is not effective or not an option.
- Coping with stressful life events with CBT techniques.
- Coping and overcoming emotional trauma.
- Help in communication and conflict management.
- Manage symptoms of chronic illness.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy also has a significant impact on mental health disorders such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Sleep Disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse
Getting the most out of CBT
Going for therapy might be quite daunting to some, especially if you are in a country that is not yet open to psychological intervention.
Following are a few things you can do to help make your therapy a success.
- Be open and honest – In order for your therapist to work well with you, you will need to be open and honest with her. It might not seem like a comfortable thing to do, but the success of your therapy depends, to a certain extent on how willing you are to share your thoughts, emotions and experiences. Let your therapist know where you are and if you find it hard to talk about things.
- Keep at it – Keep to your therapy plan, even when you feel discouraged. Skipping sessions will only disrupt your progress and delay your wellness. Sometimes it takes a few sessions of therapy before you start to see improvement. Don’t give up, even if going for your therapy session is the last thing you want to do.
- Be kind to yourself and don’t expect instant results. Working through emotional issues requires time and energy. It can be a draining process initially and it is quite common to feel worse than before you first started therapy as you confront the issues you are facing. Don’t pressure yourself and give yourself time to improve.
- Do your part. Your therapist might ask you to complete some ‘homework’ in between sessions, such as keeping a journal or reading up on certain things. Follow through with the assignment as it will help you through the process. You will see faster results as you do your part.
- Therapy is a partnership. View therapy as a partnership in which you are actively involved. Set goals together with your therapist. Talk to your therapist about what you want to achieve and let your therapist know if you feel that something is not working for you. Therapy is always more effective when you put in the effort to participate.
Types of CBT
There are several types of CBT approaches, some of which are tailored specifically to help a person overcome a particular issue.
Specific psychotherapy that involves Cognitive Behavior Therapy includes Cognitive Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Multimodal Therapy, and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
All these therapies work by addressing thought patterns to overcome psychological distress.
Cognitive Therapy focuses on changing inaccurate thinking patterns, and its emotional and behavioral responses.
DBT addresses negative thoughts and negative behaviors with emotion regulation strategies. DBT also teaches people mindfulness to help people be aware of what is happening in their thoughts and their surroundings.
Multimodal Therapy is based on the theory that one has to deal with seven interconnected modalities to overcome the issue at hand. The modalities in this therapy are cognition, behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, interpersonal factors and biological considerations.
REBT aims to resolve psychological issues by identifying and challenging irrational beliefs, as well as recognizing and changing thought patterns to change behavior.
Potential pitfalls of CBT
CBT is generally a therapy that produces good results. However, you might run into some roadblocks when undergoing CBT.
CBT is a very structured therapy and works well for people who respond to a focused approach. This is especially so as the therapist will usually take on the instructional role in CBT. The CBT approach is very different from therapies that search for unconscious processes that affect our behavior.
Additionally, you will find that CBT will work much better if there is a willingness to change on your part. You need to be ready to put in the effort even when the time comes for you to start facing issues that you find confronting.
Change in itself can also be difficult. Most of the time, just recognizing that you have certain thought processes that are unhealthy will not bring any change. It is not easy to alter your thoughts, but as you continue to learn and grow, the change will happen.
CBT is a short term therapy that is very useful in many situations. If you are in the midst of deciding on attending CBT, you can get started by finding a therapist that you can trust. Your doctor might be of help in referring you to a CBT therapist.
Understand the cost of the therapy and if it is covered by your medical insurance. Last but not least, it is always good to be prepared even before the session starts. Think about what you would like to discuss with your therapist. As you put in the effort, you will soon start to see the changes that you desire.