June 14, 2020

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Written by Rachel Eddins

woman running with balloons outside what is CBT cognitive behavioral therapy Houston, TX

In the past century, some incredible advances have been made within the realm of mental health care. This explosion of knowledge has resulted in countless useful discoveries about psychology and the human mind. Subsequently, new healing approaches are constantly being developed.

One of the most successful and enduring mental health treatments for almost six decades has been cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT). There is mainstream awareness of CBT but, as with many scientific issues, there is not always mainstream accuracy. What is cognitive behavioral therapy? We’ll explore the basics here.

What is CBT?

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that is categorized as “solutions-oriented.” Its focus is to modify any dysfunctional:

  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Behaviors

As mentioned, CBT has been in use for quite a while. During this time, it has been deemed appropriate for people of all ages — from children to adolescents to adults. Some of the conditions for which CBT is effective include:

Learn more about symptoms and cognitive behavioral treatments here.

The Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The foundation of CBT is the belief that many (if not most) psychological problems are rooted in a blend of unhelpful ways of thinking and learned patterns of unhelpful behavior. However, cognitive behavioral therapy posits that anyone struggling with such problems can unlearn these unhelpful patterns.

You can develop new ways to cope with problems, reduce related symptoms, and live more productive lives.

CBT treatment plans most commonly center around the work need to change a client’s thinking patterns. The way we think affects the way we feel, which can impact our behavior. Such strategies may be:

  • Learning more about how motivation and behavior works for you and those in your life
  • Identifying the distortions in your thought habits and patterns
  • Recognizing how these distortions create problems — specifically, the problems for which you have begun therapy
  • Cultivating the skills you require to problem-solve more effectively in challenging situations
  • Developing self-confidence in your ability to achieve all of the above (and more)

black man arms up behind head resting on park bench coping successfully given CBT skills

CBT Emphasizes Changing Behavior

As you can probably see, CBT emphasizes the importance of changing behavioral patterns. Whether it’s 5 or 20 sessions, you will:

  • Utilize role-playing tactics with your counselor to prepare yourself for the type of interactions you deem troublesome
  • Commit to no longer avoid fears and doubts; instead, you discover powerful ways to face them
  • Establish the ability to calm yourself in body and mind.

What Advancements Have Been Made With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy has both the longevity and the results to have endured and evolved. As a result, many cognitive behavioral therapies now exist — too many to list! Your therapist may incorporate some of these approaches in your treatment plan. Here’s a sampling:

older white woman hiking CBT is as effective as medication

Is CBT Evidence-Based?

Cognitive behavioral therapy may appear to be a complex concept and it is the result of complex research and analysis. However, it remains accessible to all of us. Numerous studies have demonstrated that cognitive-behavioral therapy is as effective as medication for depression, anxiety, social anxiety, obsessions and other fears.

Using skills learned in CBT therapy, clients are able to maintain improvement after therapy has been completed. The freedom and confidence you long for are entirely possible. Consider the possibilities of CBT.

Any therapeutic approach can sound logical — or perhaps abstract — in its basic description. When it comes to effective counseling, however, the proof lies in the practice and the ensuing results. There are many good reasons why CBT continues to thrive after nearly 60 years.

Almost all of those reasons center around its stellar track record. CBT is a highly effective treatment method for multiple areas of concern.

older white woman maintaining improvements even after she finished CBT cognitive behavioral therapy

How Does CBT Treatment Work?

For many or most people, the idea of therapy is to dig into one’s past to find clues for understanding today’s issues. This is a reasonable assumption since a lot of different therapy approaches do precisely that. Not CBT though. In cognitive behavioral therapy treatment, the focus is aimed squarely on present beliefs and thoughts.

Counselor and client work closely together to understand current situations. These situations are identified. From there, the client’s unhelpful perception of this now-obvious situation is then challenged and addressed.

Think of it like a pair of glasses of which the prescription does not match your needs. Your viewpoint is shaped by unhelpful lenses. To play out the metaphor, CBT helps you recognize not only the poor fit but also how it distorts reality.

After cognitive behavioral therapy treatment, you’ll have the skills to see situations more clearly — with or without your metaphorical glasses!

What Strategies are Used to Help Reshape Thought Patterns?

Your negative thought patterns are called cognitive distortions. Some examples are catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, black-and-white thinking, and personalizing. Regardless of which patterns you’ve internalized, they can lead to self-sabotaging, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, and more.

CBT reshapes those cognitive distortions in numerous ways. Two common strategies are:

  • Question your assumptions. It’s difficult to maintain healthy beliefs if they are founded on shaky assumptions. CBT teaches you to test your beliefs, seek evidence, weight fact vs. emotion, and seek alternative interpretations.
  • Self-monitor. We can go through our days without ever examining the thoughts that shape our mood and behavior. As the word implies, self-monitoring teaches you to pre-empt negative thoughts and assumptions before they can take hold.

white woman drinking coffee on outside bench with dog CBT focuses on the present not the past

What Strategies Help Reshape Behavioral Patterns?

Your behavioral patterns intertwine with your cognitive distortions until it feels impossible to discern cause and effect. This is why cognitive behavioral therapy treatment addresses both. Also, rather than spending lots of time trying to identify the past events that created the tangle, your CBT therapist will set you off on a path reshaping thoughts and actions at the same time.

Let’s say you are struggling with catastrophic thinking. CBT would have you do a behavioral exercise like this:

  • Before engaging in an activity that provokes low-level anxiety, you may be asked to make a prediction. (“What do you think will happen if you attempt this action?”) You may describe it in detail or offer ranges of reaction from minor stress to the worst-case scenario.
  • You might then perform the task.
  • Then, you may meet with your therapist and talk about what happened and if any part of your prediction came true.

As time passes, you might discover that your assumptions are not accurate. You’ll be able to reshape your behavior patterns and practice this exercise on activities of increasing anxiety.

Get Started Now!

Finally, consider the possibilities of CBT. Free your mind one thought at a time. Enjoy fully whatever comes next.

Schedule a free consultation with our practice manager to find out how cognitive behavioral therapy treatment can help you. Call us in Houston today at 832-559-2622 or click here to schedule an appointment online.

white male on cell phone with therapist cognitive behavioral therapy CBT

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