What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders and severe mental illness. Numerous research studies suggest that CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life. In many studies, CBT has been demonstrated to be as effective as, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.
It is important to emphasize that advances in CBT have been made on the basis of both research and clinical practice. Indeed, CBT is an approach for which there is ample scientific evidence that the methods that have been developed actually produce change. In this manner, CBT differs from many other forms of psychological treatment.
CBT is based on several core principles, including:
- Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
- People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.
CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include:
- Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality.
- Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others.
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
- Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence in one’s own abilities.
CBT treatment also usually involves efforts to change behavioral patterns. These strategies might include:
- Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.
- Using role-playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others.
- Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body.
Not all CBT will use all of these strategies. Rather, the psychologist and patient/client work together, in a collaborative fashion, to develop an understanding of the problem and to develop a treatment strategy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists. Through exercises in the session as well as “homework” exercises outside of sessions, patients/clients are helped to develop coping skills, whereby they can learn to change their own thinking, problematic emotions, and behavior.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on what is going on in the person’s current life, rather than what has led up to their difficulties. A certain amount of information about one’s history is needed, but the focus is primarily on moving forward in time to develop more effective ways of coping with life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used in addiction treatment to help patients “retrain” their brains. The goal is to instill the tools necessary to continue a life of sobriety.
Most addiction treatment programs that follow Rehab utilize this methodology for obvious reasons. Outcomes are much better when Cognitive behavioral therapy is employed. The goal of cognitive behavior therapy is to teach patients 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.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
Engaging with CBT can help people reduce stress, cope with complicated relationships, deal with grief, and face many other common life challenges.
CBT works on the basis that the way we think and interpret life’s events affects how we behave and, ultimately, how we feel. Studies have shown that it is useful in many situations.
More specifically, CBT is a problem-specific, goal-oriented approach that needs the individual’s active involvement to succeed. It focuses on their present-day challenges, thoughts, and behaviors.
It is also time-limited, meaning the person knows when a course will end, and they have some idea what to expect. Often, a course will consist of 20 one-to-one sessions, but this is not always the case.
It can also take the form of either individual, family, or group sessions.
CBT is a collaborative therapy, requiring the individual and counselor to work together. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the person eventually learns to become their own therapist.