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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

For anyone living with a mental health diagnosis or struggling personally, therapy is an important part of getting help. When people first begin searching for treatment, they will quickly find out that there are many different options available. One of the most effective treatment options currently available is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.

CBT is a commonly used treatment that therapists, counselors, and psychologists can use when working directly with clients. A mental health professional uses this therapy to take dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors and replace them with more beneficial ones. In other words, the goal of this treatment is to identify the thoughts and behaviors that are not working in your life and replace them with more positive ones.

There are many strengths to this type of treatment but one major benefit is that it takes complex internal processes like motivation, drive, cognition, and human behavior and adjusts them to treat a wide range of mental health diagnoses and life struggles. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be used to treat both serious mental health disorders as well as more minor life struggles.

The roots of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy emerged in the 1960s as a result of push back against previously used psychotherapy techniques. Until this time, the main type of psychotherapy was psychoanalysis. This treatment, popularized by Dr. Sigmund Frued in the early 1900s, involved a long commitment to therapy. During treatment sessions, patients would lie on a couch and talk extensively as the therapist listened. These sessions would look to uncover the individual’s unconscious motivations, wants, and desires.

CBT was founded by a renowned psychologist Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s as a much-needed alternative to this controversial therapy. Beck studied under the controversial Freud and paired what he learned from his mentor with his own ideas about how our thoughts impact behaviors. From its inception, CBT was widely accepted by the community as a successful treatment modality for many different mental health concerns.

How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work

What made CBT different from many previously used types of therapy is that it focuses heavily on the present. Earlier treatments involved a deep dive into the patients past.

CBT was unique in that therapists could work with their clients to deal with current struggles in their life, as opposed to what had happened in their past. This therapy abandoned hours spent sifting through childhood memories and replaced that notion with a strong focus on how the way you think influences the way you behave.

When engaging in Cognitive Behavioral therapy, you work with your practitioner to start to identify your own Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the automatic assumptions you make about the things that happen to you. For example, if every time someone looks at you, you assume that they are criticizing you, this is not an accurate assumption. Perhaps they are curious about you, or you simply caught their eye.

As you better understand the way your mind works, you can start to impact the way you react to your thoughts. You have the power to change the way you react to things in your environment. In many cases, you can vastly improve the way you think and behave at the same time.

What can CBT treat?

Cognitive Behavioral therapy can treat a wide range of both psychiatric diagnoses, as well as the difficulties you experience in your life. Experts have found that CBT is an effective treatment for mental health disorders such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Substance Abuse Disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger issues

Those are just a few diagnoses that have been studied. In addition, therapists can use CBT to work with clients who do not have a mental health diagnosis, but rather are struggling with some part of their life. This treatment has even been used to help people who live with high-stress careers or situations manage the impact of stress on their wellbeing.

What can I expect from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in my treatment?

CBT will start like most therapy sessions. The clinician will ask lots of background questions to get a sense of your history and your story. This is not to say that the information will be a large part of your treatment, but will serve as a backdrop.

After that initial one or two sessions to build a rapport, the treatment can begin. While there is no set timeframe for CBT to be complete, it is among the treatments that will likely conclude at some point. Usually somewhere between 10-20 sessions, sometimes a little shorter or longer. Many people see this another strength of the treatment. Instead of signing up for therapy for the rest of your life, you can change your thoughts and behaviors in a reasonable period of time.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy effective?

The main goal of CBT is to help clients understand that despite the fact that we cannot always control our environment, we can change the way we see and react to our environment. For most people who fully participate and engage with the treatment, this goal is achievable.

Thousands of studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of CBT with many different diagnoses and life struggles. While actual success rates from study to study and diagnosis to diagnosis, what is clear across most studies is CBT is a highly impactful treatment.

Final thoughts on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Regardless of whether you have participated in therapy in the past or you are seeking for the right treatment for you, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a great option. It has been shown to be effective for both those with a psychiatric disorder as well as those who are struggling personally.

If you are interested in finding out more or if you think Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be beneficial for your health Lifehelp is here to help you.

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