Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment designed to alter the damaging negative thought patterns that some people develop about themselves. Examples of pervasive negative thoughts include, “No one loves me,” and “I’m not good enough”. There can also be an intense fear of abandonment or belief that others are constantly judging them.
These unwelcome mantras are examples of the type of thoughts that can be modified through CBT. The focus is to look at how thoughts, emotions, and actions relate to each other and how they are affecting behavior. Destructive and irrational belief systems can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse or self-harm.
By helping our clients pinpoint and analyze these negative thought patterns, CBT can improve their coping abilities and help eliminate self-destructive behaviors.
How Does CBT Work?
The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is that situations themselves don’t upset people, but rather, it’s the meaning that they give the situations. If clients have negative thoughts, they can’t see that their perception doesn’t fit. They continue to have the same thoughts and fail to learn new things. A depressed person, for instance, might think when they wake that they can’t face going to work. They might believe that they feel awful and that nothing will go right. If they stay home from work because of these thoughts, they won’t find out if their belief is wrong. Their thoughts may develop further and lead them to believe that they’re useless, weak, and a failure.
These negative thoughts can even trigger negative emotions and behaviors, making individuals feel bad about themselves. In this case, these negative emotions may also make them more likely to avoid going to work. This vicious circle can occur with other disorders as well and could begin a downward spiral.
CBT helps clients recognize these patterns and it teaches them to step away from their automatic negative thoughts and test them first. With the depressed individual, for example, CBT would encourage them to examine real-life situations to see what happens. The goal of CBT is to correct these distorted beliefs.
Utilizing CBT in Treatment
Mental health professionals use many specific approaches that fall under CBT, depending on each client’s needs. In every case, the objective is to help each client deal with their underlying thoughts that affect mental distress. CBT focuses on identifying and modifying distorted thinking, behaviors, and emotional responses. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of CBT, addresses how clients think and behave. It incorporates mindfulness, emotion regulation, or other techniques.