Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps people learn how to identify and subsequently alter destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior (think cognition and behavior). Extensive research has shown or proven that CBT leads to significant improvement in quality of life and day to day functioning. In many studies, CBT has demonstrated similar efficacy as other modalities of psychological therapy or even psychiatric medications. CBT is an approach for which there is ample scientific evidence that the methods that have been developed actually produce change.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat a wide range of issues. It’s often the preferred type of psychotherapy because it can quickly help identify specific challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way. In some cases, CBT is most effective when it’s combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.
CBT is based on several core principles, including:
- Psychological problems are based on unhelpful or cognitively distorted ways of thinking.
- Psychological problems are based on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
- People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with their distorted cognitive thoughts and ensuing behavior. This will relieve their symptoms and they can feel reduced negative emotions in their lives.
CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change distorted thought patterns. These strategies might include:
- Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems (say catastrophic thinking), and then to reevaluate them against real situations.
- Reflecting and having a better understanding of the motivation and behavior of other people (put yourself in their shoes).
- Learning problem-solving skills and clear thought/vision to work through difficult situations.
- Learning to develop a higher level of confidence and steadfastness in one’s own abilities, cognition and self control.
- CBT treatment also usually involves efforts to change behavioral patterns.
These strategies might include:
- Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding or running away from them. (exposure)
- Use of role playing to prepare for problematic interactions that could happen in reality.
- Learning calming or relaxing techniques for one’s body, mind and spirit.
CBT is a useful modality to address emotional challenges. For example, it can help:
- Manage symptoms of a mental illness (listed below) or prevent a relapse of mental illness
- Treat a mental illness when medications aren’t a viable option due to side effects
- Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations
- Cope with having a chronic medical illness
- Manage chronic pain or physical disabilities
- Resolve conflicts in relationships and learn enhanced methods of more effective communication
- Cope with grief or loss of loved ones
- Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse, neglect or violence
- Mental health disorders that may improve with CBT include:
- Depression and Anxiety disorders
- Sleep disorders and Eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Substance use and abuse disorders
- Bipolar disorders and Schizophrenia
- Sexual disorders
- Phobias and PTSD