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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy treatment designed to help people solve problems in practical, solution-oriented ways. Often short-term and goal-oriented, CBT seeks to help people change specific thoughts, beliefs that are creating psychological distress or preventing them from living healthy, happy lives. By treating the maladaptive thoughts and beliefs, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people alter their behaviors, leading to improved emotional, physical and psychological well-being.

Typically, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on present-day problems and situations that are distressing to the client. During a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the client is actively involved in their own treatment, completing homework assignments and utilizing other CBT tools to speed up the process of change. As change is often difficult, the client benefits from a warm, supportive relationship with their certified CBT therapist throughout treatment.

3 Important Facts

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is typically a short-term therapy, taking about five to 10 months for most emotional problems.
  • CBT is usually very structured; the therapist and client work together to establish and reach the goals the client wants to achieve. To help the client do this, the therapist will often assign weekly homework assignments.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the most effective therapies. Studies show even just a 12-week course of CBT can help individuals better manage their emotional problems.

Signs to Look For

CBT is best for people who want practical, problem-solving strategies. Plus, as one of the most effective therapies available, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to treat a wide range of issues:

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

There are a variety of CBT techniques that help people change their thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be thought of as helping clients create a psychological toolbox that will provide them with the tools they need to cope with the situations that trigger distress. These tools may focus on doing specific behaviors. For example, a client can learn to manage their fear of flying by learning breathing and relaxation techniques that helped her calm her body and mind before a flight. For a client who is suffering from depression, they might keep a diary of thoughts and events that occurred to help them pinpoint maladaptive thoughts and beliefs that led to the downward spiral.

The psychological tools acquired through CBT may be less focused on active behaviors and more focused on changing negative thought patterns. In fact, learning to recognize thinking errors, or cognitive distortions, is often an important aspect of CBT treatment. For example, a woman who doesn’t get a promotion she hoped for might think, “I’m a failure. I didn’t deserve the promotion anyway. I’m always a disappointment. Why did I even try?” CBT can help her recognize these destructive thoughts (which are often automatic) and then reframe them in a more realistic light (i.e., “The company isn’t promoting anyone right now due to budget cuts”, or “I didn’t get that promotion this time but I will keep working hard and maybe in a few months it will work out.”)

Whatever techniques are used during the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment, clients can benefit from the hands-on, problem-solving approach CBT offers. As they acquire more and more tools to put in their psychological toolbox, CBT clients will be better equipped to manage challenging situations and feelings and build healthy, happy lives.

What Are My Next Steps?

If you think you’d benefit from CBT, make an appointment with a therapist trained in this approach. Since Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is widely accepted as highly effective, many therapists are trained in CBT methods. Talking to a therapist about what you hope to gain from CBT can help them work with you to make a treatment plan that will help you on your way toward reaching your goals.

Common Questions and Answers about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What does CBT focus on?

A main focus of CBT is helping people recognize and overcome their negative thought patterns and change behaviors that are keeping them from living the kinds of lives they want to live.

How do I know if CBT is right for me?

As mentioned above, CBT is used to treat a wide variety of challenges. However, the client who benefits most from CBT is the client who is willing to do the homework assignments and work hard to change negative behaviors and thoughts. If you are motivated to do these things, CBT may be an excellent choice for you.

How effective is CBT long-term?

Studies suggest that CBT is not only effective in the short-term, but can also be highly effective long-term. This means that people who complete a course of CBT learn techniques and coping skills that can help them deal with life’s challenges even a long time after therapy has ended.