Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) evolved from philosophy, psychology, and science. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus influenced the CBT. He was one of the first pioneers to integrate behavioral and cognitive sciences.
CBT is a short-term goal-oriented treatment that promotes objectivity and flexibility in thinking. Rather than treating thoughts and beliefs as fact or truth, CBT develops the notion that they are shaped by our experiences, culture, and so on. CBT encourages belief testing and health promotion and / or assessment of these. Relevant to current circumstances. Becoming aware of how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors not only enhances insight, but often leads to different emotional and behavioral consequences.
CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people to learn what their disturbing or destructive thought patterns are and how to change them when they have a negative influence on the individual’s emotions and behaviour. These thoughts occur automatically and worsen depression, emotional difficulties and anxiety. They also detrimentally influence the individual’s mood.
CBT works to identify such faulty thoughts and replace them with more realistic and objective thoughts. CBT can also help to manage non-psychological health conditions, such as chronic pain and insomnia. The goal of CBT is to help people understand that while they cannot control all aspects of the world around them, they can be in control of how they interpret and deal with happenings in their environment.
Who needs cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy is used by psychotherapists for both treating and managing a range of mental health conditions and/or emotional challenges. People of any age including children can receive CBT.
Some of the mental health conditions for which psychologists use include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), different types of phobias, personality issues, eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorders, and substance use and alcohol use disorders. CBT combined with medication proves beneficial in treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
CBT is also purported to be effective in managing non-psychological medical conditions such as insomnia, some causes of chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and some other everyday challenges that people encounter.
Psychotherapists commonly use CBT to handle relationship issues, cope with stress, adjust to life situations, overcome grief, divorce, workplace problems, etc.
Techniques Used in CBT
CBT uses a range of strategies to help people overcome set thought patterns. Given below are some techniques that are generally used.
Spot Negative Thoughts
It is not easy for those struggling with introspection to learn how negative thoughts, and contribute to maladaptive behaviours. However, in CBT, the therapist takes time to identify such thoughts which can provide insights essential to the treatment process.
Practice New Skills
In CBT, clients are taught new skills that prove useful in real-world situations. As an example, an individual with a substance use disorder can practice new coping skills and learn new ways to handle or avoid social situations that could lead to relapse.
Goal setting has proved to be an important step when recovering from mental illness. Setting goals helps you to make changes that will improve your health and life. During CBT, the therapist strives to help you strengthen your goal-setting abilities. The sessions involve the therapist teaching the clients to identify and fix SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) with an emphasis to focus on the process as well as the outcomes.
Therapists teach problem-solving skills during CBT to help clients learn how to identify and solve problems arising from major and minor life stressors. They can also help to reduce the negative impact of psychological and physical illness.
Problem-solving steps in CBT:
• Identifying the problem
• Generating a list of potential solutions
• Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each solution
• Choosing a single solution to implement
• Implementing the solution
Self-monitoring (diary work) is an important CBT technique. This activity involves the client tracking their behaviours/ symptoms/experiences over a period and sharing them with the therapist.
This provides the therapist with the information required to provide the best mode of treatment. A person with eating disorders can keep track of eating habits and the thoughts/feelings that occurred during the consumption of a meal/snack.
Additional CBT techniques may include journaling, role-playing, using mental distractions, and engaging in relaxation strategies.
What to expect in CBT sessions
The first CBT session is much like the first appointment with any new doctor or healthcare provider.
The first session involves filling out forms such as HIPAA forms (for data privacy), medical history, insurance information, current medications, and a service agreement. In case you have opted for online sessions, you will fill them out online.
The client will likely answer questions about what brought them to therapy, symptoms, and their history—starting from childhood, education, career, relationships (family, marital/romantic, friends), to the current living conditions.
Once the therapist gets a better idea of your life, your challenges, and your goals for CBT, through subsequent sessions they would help to increase awareness about your thoughts and beliefs that may be unhelpful or unrealistic. Next, they implement strategies that would help you develop healthier thoughts/behaviours.
The later sessions involve discussions about the strategies and the ones that are not working are changed to better options. The therapist may also suggest CBT techniques that you can use (journaling to identify negative thoughts/ new skills that will help you overcome anxiety) to practice between sessions so that you can develop coping skills faster.
Benefits of CBT
CBT is conducted on the premise that thoughts and feelings play a basic role in behaviour. CBT provides the following key benefits:
• It helps you build healthier thought patterns by being more aware of the negative/unrealistic thoughts that can dampen your feelings/moods.1
• Improvements can be seen in five to 20 sessions of CBT.
• CBT is effective for a broad range of maladaptive behaviours.
• It is an affordable form of therapy compared to many others.
• CBT is effective whether done online or face-to-face.
• CBT is useful for those who do not require psychotropic medication.
• CBT helps clients develop coping skills that can be useful in the present and the future.