Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a problem-focused and goal oriented treatment that aims to help you make specific changes in order to live an enriched life. The underlying theory in CBT states that, that many times, our thoughts and behaviors are the cause of our negative emotions; thus, changing our thinking and behavioral patterns can free us from emotions such as depression, anxiety, fear, regret, etc. This is not to say that real life problems should be minimized. Of course we all experience life circumstances that naturally cause a variety of emotions. Believe it or not, even in the face of such terrible circumstances, one could emerge with healthy coping responses without emotional paralysis. It’s not magic, nor is it rocket science. It’s CBT! CBT was pioneered by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s and has since been heavily researched by many scholars across many academic institutions around the world.
We may not want to admit it but we all have distorted thinking, especially when under stress. We say to ourselves things like:
“I’ll never get over it.”
“This will ruin my life!”
“Everybody will laugh at me.”
“They think I’m a loser.”
“I’ll never get that job.”
“I’ll never find love.”
And when these types of thoughts come up, we engage in dysfunctional or self-destructive behaviors such as:
The goal of CBT is twofold:
- To identify, examine, and change unhealthy thinking patterns. This process is not to be confused with “positive thinking” or sugarcoating problems. Such endeavors are not helpful and leave you disappointed with only frustratingly temporary impact.
- To change behaviors, to develop healthy behavioral patterns that will help you increase self-care, build and utilize a support system, take risks, meet goals and deadlines, finish projects, etc.
CBT looks something like this:
By changing thoughts and behaviors, you can change and improve your mood. In CBT, we make these changes by teaching concrete tools that can be applied over and over again, throughout different stages of your life.
10 things to Know About CBT
- CBT is based on an ever-evolving formulation of you and your problems
- CBT requires a strong therapeutic alliance between client and therapist
- CBT emphasizes collaboration and active participation on the part of both the client and therapist
- CBT is goal oriented and problem focused
- CBT initially emphasizes the present; attention shifts to the past when necessary
- CBT teaches clients to become their own therapist, and emphasizes relapse prevention
- CBT aims to be time limited
- CBT sessions are structured
- CBT teaches patients to identify, evaluate, and respond to dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs
- CBT uses a variety of techniques to change thinking, mood, and behaviors.