Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic technique used by mental health professionals to help individuals identify and change disruptive thought patterns. The modification in the thinking process also results in a positive change in the disruptive behavior of the individual.
The thought processes are often automatic and negative – leading to significant emotional and functional distress to the individual.
Core Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
While there are many core principles involved in this highly effective therapy, the main three are as follow:
- Negative, faulty, or unsupportive ways of thinking contribute to mental illnesses.
- Unhelpful learned routines and behaviors contribute to mental illnesses.
- People suffering from mental illnesses can learn positive and helpful coping methods and thus reform their way of life.
These principles mentioned above are what therapists consider when using CBT to help an individual suffering from a psychological problem.
What Happens During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Unlike psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on your current mental state and problems, not your past troubles. During this therapy, the therapist will break down your thought patterns into smaller parts and help modify them bit by bit.
During CBT, you can expect to become more aware of your emotional and mental state. Your therapist will also guide you through various cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for relaxation, coping, assertiveness, resilience, stress management, and trauma relief.
Steps of CBT
You can expect the following steps during your CBT sessions, which might use techniques such as; self-talk, journaling, exposure therapy, role-playing, and more.
Identify the Problem
Often people feel overwhelmed and depressed with their lives but can not pinpoint the issue behind this negative state. Other times the problem is quite clear – such as divorce, anger, unemployment, grief, etc.
Your therapist will discuss these problems with you, and you will both decide which issue you want to focus on first and then set goals accordingly.
Identification of Negative Thoughts
For a better mental state, you must be aware of any negative thoughts you might harbor. Sometimes these thoughts occur automatically and result in self-destructive behaviors.
This step requires a great deal of self-reflection on your attitude towards yourself, others, and the world. After identifying these thoughts, one can move towards self-enlightenment and take a step closer to improving your well-being.
Learning to Set Realistic Goals
Too many times, people fail to organize their ambitions into realistic and attainable goals. With CBT, your therapist will help you identify and set your goals. You will further learn about setting long-term and short-term goals for your peace of mind.
You will be able to set SMART goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
Building Problem-Solving Skills
Problem-solving is an essential ability by which one can assess situations and come up with the most effective solution with minimum mental stress.
Through problem-solving techniques, you learn to:
- identify the main problem.
- list all possible solutions.
- weigh the pros and cons of those solutions.
- implement the most beneficial one.
Learning to Face Your Anxieties
We all are afraid of one thing or another, but when that fear becomes crippling: it must be addressed. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist will ask you to list your fears and, together, you will decide which one to tackle first.
Afterward, the therapist will gradually expose you to your feared situation or object to help you come to terms with it.
Learning Techniques to Endure Challenging Situations
Lastly, your therapist does not want you to break apart every time you face a stressful situation. To avoid such a reaction, your mental healthcare provider will also equip you with relaxation and coping techniques which can help you protect your mental health in adverse situations.
After a session on developing skills, your therapist might give you homework or therapy assignments that help you strengthen the skills you are trying to learn. This homework is a vital part of CBT, and you should make sure to follow your therapist’s instructions.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Used For?
Research has found CBT to be highly effective in improving well-being in individuals with depression and anxiety. But, CBT can also help deal with a wide range of mental and physical illnesses, which includes
However, CBT is not only limited to treating illnesses; you can also use this therapy for:
- Relationship issues.
- Self-esteem issues.
- Dealing with a serious medical condition.
- Chronic pain.
Anyone suffering from these difficulties can benefit from CBT when delivered correctly from a professional.
At its core, CBT help replaces negative thought patterns with more positive ones, which lead to happier beliefs and constructive behaviors. Some of the benefits of this therapy are:
- CBT is a good option when medication alone is not helping with your symptoms or situation. Research suggests that CBT might be even more effective than medication and has lasting effects on your mental health.
- Through CBT, you tackle your problem and acquire the skills to sustain yourself for years to come. For instance, CBT for depression has been known to result in a fewer relapses of the mental illness.
- It requires less time than other therapies; depending on the situation, you might begin to benefit after as few as five sessions. However, professionals strongly recommend taking a minimum of twelve sessions.
- CBT is also much cheaper than other therapy options.
- If you can’t find a mental health care professional in your vicinity, you can still get effective CBT sessions online.
- You can use the techniques taught through CBT to navigate through everyday life.
The cons are few when it comes to CBT. Some points that might not seem appealing are:
- It takes commitment and effort on your part to benefit from the process.
- You might be uncomfortable talking about your emotions, fears, thoughts, and private feelings.
- It focuses on your thoughts and behaviors and not on other factors such as family dynamics or socioeconomic status that might also adversely affect your well-being.
Keep in mind; these drawbacks are minuscule compared to the benefits and positive changes you will experience. But if you don’t think it will help with your situation, don’t lose heart – there are other therapy options available.
How to Get the Most Out of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
To get the most out of your CBT sessions, follow your therapist’s instructions and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Homework assigned to you is crucial for developing valuable skills.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. You deserve the best possible treatment for the betterment of your mental health. In that spirit, make sure you commit to the process and employ the skills you learn from CBT in your daily routine.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals better understand their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and become better versions of themselves. It is also highly effective in treating several mental illnesses and guiding individuals through life stressors.
To get CBT, you can contact any mental health professional in your vicinity.
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