Cognitive behavior therapy, often referred to as simply CBT, is a short-term therapy solution designed to address problems hands-on. CBT is often used for depression and anxiety, and it may be used in place of or in addition to medications. The goal is to change the way people think, thus changing the way they feel.
What Conditions can CBT Treat?
CBT is used to help with a variety of mental problems and disorders. These range from anxiety and Depression to uncontrolled anger, eating disorders, and even substance abuse. The goal involves changing the way people feel in the present, which helps them make better decisions about their actions – and reactions. For example, an individual who has a healthy reaction to a stressor in the workplace is less likely to resort to anger, depression, or substance abuse than someone who has an unhealthy reaction.
Perception Creates a Reaction
CBT is based on the idea that the way a person perceives a situation has a very strong effect on the way he or she reacts. For example, if someone perceives a situation to be stressful, he or she is likely to react with Anxiety. The goal of CBT involves helping patients learn to perceive things differently so they can react appropriately. Someone who perceives an event as a non-threat is likely to react accordingly, without depression, anger, self-loathing, or anxiety.
Common Facets of Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy describes an entire group of techniques that may be taught and practiced separately or together. Most psychologists will customize CBT based on their patients’ needs, including the severity of his or her condition, the medications currently being used, and the patient’s diagnosis. It may include the following:
- Gestalt therapy – Used to treat people who feel “unwell” mentally, gestalt therapy teaches patients to experience life in the present, without worrying about the past or future.
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness is commonly used alongside gestalt therapy, and it teaches patients how to become aware of their current surroundings using their five senses.
- Solution-focused therapy – This is a type of therapy that tends to focus less on problem solving and more on building solutions. While most psychotherapy involves reaching backward into the past to solve problems, this form of therapy involves asking patients to look to the future and create solutions to help them reach their goals.
- Motivational interviewing – This therapy is designed to help patients resolve ambivalence. The therapist does not attempt to motivate the patient; rather, the therapist helps the patient discover his or her own Motivation to change behaviors.
- Positive psychology – Positive psychology is a learning session that has helped countless patients. It’s commonly used in cognitive behavior therapy as it helps people understand what causes humanity to flourish and be happy. It’s a deep look into the strengths and qualities that help individuals and groups of individuals thrive.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy – Interpersonal therapy is a more traditional form of therapy, but it’s used in CBT only briefly. It’s designed to help patients resolve interpersonal issues and recover from the symptoms they create.
- Compassion-focused therapy – Compassion-focused therapy teaches patients to handle shame, self-criticism, and self-doubt. It’s used in combination with other facets of CBT, particularly when patients seem to take to the therapies, but don’t “feel” better about themselves.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy – Finally, psychodynamic psychotherapy is much like the traditional psychoanalysis that people tend to associate with psychology. It involves helping patients discover unconscious or subconscious thoughts and feelings that may impact the conscious mind.
Preparing for Cognitive Behavior Therapy
If your Psychologist suggests cognitive behavior therapy, he or she may spend some time developing the right mix of therapies to suit your needs. Remember that unlike traditional psychotherapy and the use of medications, CBT is designed to be short-term. Most patients will see their therapists weekly for anywhere from five to 20 weeks. If you are currently taking medication, your psychiatrist may lower your dosage as your CBT progresses, depending on your overall progress. If you are not currently taking medication, you may see a psychiatrist if your psychologist believes that medication may help.
Does it Really Work?
A 2012 study published in Cognitive Therapy and Research looked at 289 different studies on the efficacy of CBT in patients with a wide variety of psychological issues, ranging from social anxiety to life-threatening eating disorders. They found that CBT was beneficial for some disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorders, and anxiety disorder. It was less effective in treating conditions like addiction and substance abuse, sleep disorders, and certain personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder. In short, the study also found that individuals within each study group had a wide range of responses; some responded well to treatment, while it seemed to have no effect on others. Studies are ongoing to determine why some patients seem to benefit while others do not.
Cognitive behavior therapy is a collection of psychotherapies designed to help reshape the way patients think. It focuses primarily on the here-and-now, and it teaches people to learn how to react to situations appropriately. While it certainly doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s better for some conditions than others, psychologists say it’s one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal, especially when it comes to treating depression and generalized anxiety.
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