Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used and researched types of psychotherapy. It has been called the “gold standard” of psychotherapies and is highly praised for its efficacy as an evidence-based psychotherapeutic (EBP) model, meaning it relies on research-driven evidence rather than professional opinion. It is a therapeutic technique that combines cognitive therapy with behavioral therapy. At SoCal Mental Health, we use Orange County evidence-based treatments and CBT is a great example of one that works in treating symptoms of psychological conditions.
The origin of CBT started with behavioral therapy. It is the goal of behavioral therapy to determine whether or not certain behavioral habits are making your life difficult or exacerbating your issues. Once this has been established, you can begin working on altering these behavioral patterns as the second stage in the process. It sounds simple, but this method has made gains in psychotherapy not seen in other non-EBP modalities.
For example, when a person has depression, the symptoms of their illness often help to perpetuate the condition. A common recommendation for those with depression is to continue to see friends, get regular exercise, and try to find activities they enjoy in some way. However, the person diagnosed with depression is more likely to withdraw and give up their hobbies due to their depression.
As a result, depression can cause feelings of unhappiness and isolation. This is the relationship between behavior and mental state that behavior therapy looks for. Once the behavior is identified in the depressed individual, cognitive therapy helps to identify this mechanism and find ways to become more active again.
What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
According to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) theory, our ideas, emotions, bodily sensations, and behaviors are all intertwined. What we think and do has an impact on how we feel. If we modify one of them, we have the ability to affect the others.
When individuals are anxious or disturbed, they are prone to falling into thought and response patterns that only serve to exacerbate their state of mind. CBT works by assisting a person in recognizing and changing harmful thinking styles or behavior patterns so that they feel better about themselves. CBT offers a variety of techniques that may be used to assist you in the present moment.
The techniques of therapy that are used are determined by the disorder or issue that is being addressed. The fundamental premise of therapy, on the other hand, remains constant: what we think, how we feel, and how we behave are all interwoven with one another in a cycle–and all of these variables have a significant impact on our overall well-being. As such, CBT allows the subject to see the flow between:
The word “cognitive” is derived from the Latin “cognoscere,” translating as “to recognize.” A major goal of CBT is to help you get a comprehensive understanding of your own ideas, attitudes, and expectations. The aim is to uncover and alter incorrect and unpleasant ideas since, more often than not, it is not the objects and circumstances themselves that create difficulties, but the emphasis that we place on them that causes them.
CBT recognizes the elements of conscious experiences and categorizes them, such as:
- A way of behaving: drinking less or being more open to friendship
- A way of feeling: helping a person have less fear around meeting people, help with feeling depressed or anxious
- A way of thinking: learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-deprecating thoughts
- A way of dealing with physical problems: lessening back pain or helping a person stick to a physical therapist’s recommendations.
Then it uses common sense to break the emotional hold the thoughts and feelings have. For example:
Thought: Ted didn’t meet me at the coffee shop. He probably doesn’t like me anymore.
Feeling: I feel sad
Action: I will probably delete his number
After Applying CBT
Thought: Ted wasn’t at the coffee shop today. Maybe I should find out why
Action: Call Ted
This reframing of the situation works to do two things:
- Allows for looking at and appreciating just what a thought, feeling, or behavior is and what it connects to, and
- Looking at things like negative feelings and thoughts logically thereby neutralizing the power they have
Those who consider themselves realists at first glance might see it as wishful thinking. Quite the opposite though, as it is a process of seeing the negative things that affect us more clearly. It’s about appreciating the notions that haunt us for what they really are, and they usually are not as bad as we think. At the very least, it is something that can be overcome. It’s as real as it gets.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is geared toward actively solving problems. The issues it focuses on are now, in the present, when a person is experiencing them. CBT does not disregard the impact of previous experiences. However, it is primarily concerned with recognizing and altering existing unpleasant thinking and behavioral patterns.
The most essential thing is to assist individuals in assisting themselves. They should be able to deal with their life without the need for ongoing treatment.
What Does It Treat?
Positive results from CBT studies are common and they are backed by real clinical results.
Several studies have indicated that the treatment is helpful for a variety of mental health issues, including:
- Schizophrenia spectrum disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance use disorder (SUD)
CBT is often integrated with other forms of therapy, such as coping skills, that make the practice even more effective in the moment. For example, treating anxiety disorders often involve learning special techniques to help you calm down. You may learn to decrease anxiety by breathing deeply in and out for a set number of seconds so that your body relaxes.
When you do this, you focus on your breathing rather than the source of your worry. You are also oxygenating the cerebral areas of your brain, which helps with thought processing. These methods may assist you in calming down rather than becoming too anxious.