Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that focuses on present challenges and the skills needed to overcome them. Adult therapy and child therapy include many different types of treatments for improving mental health, and no single type of therapy is right for every person. CBT is based on the idea that if people can identify their negative thinking and behavioral patterns, they can be empowered to change those patterns.
Does cognitive behavioral therapy work? Yes. For many people, the skills learned through cognitive-behavioral therapy provide an improvement in mental health symptoms and increase their quality of life overall.
What Can Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Treat?
CBT is effective for treating a wide range of conditions. You may use it as a stand-alone therapy or as part of an overall treatment plan along with traditional one-on-one therapy or couples therapy. CBT can help people:
- Manage symptoms of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorders
- Cope with chronic illness
- Resolve conflicts in relationships
- Treat process disorders, such as eating disorders or video game addiction
- Treat substance use disorders
- Ease symptoms of PTSD
- Improve sleep habits and ease insomnia
- Overcome traumas, including childhood abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault
- Cope with the loss of a loved one
- Learn stress management skills
- Practice anger management techniques
- Prevent relapses of mental illness symptoms and substance use disorders
CBT can help anyone who feels like their negative thinking habits are preventing them from meeting personal goals.
What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
Based on what became known as the “cognitive revolution” in the 1950s, psychologists Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck developed the therapeutic approach that is now known as cognitive-behavioral therapy during the 1960s and 70s. Unlike earlier psychoanalytic concepts, CBT was founded on the idea that present thoughts and behaviors can be changed without a deep examination of the past.
CBT focuses on helping people change dysfunctional patterns without an in-depth analysis of how patterns became dysfunctional. For example, in the case of cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety, the therapist would help the client recognize the thought patterns that lead to anxiety symptoms. They then help the client build the skills they need to change those patterns. By changing their thoughts, the client can eliminate or at least decrease their symptoms.
The structure of cognitive-behavioral therapy makes it adaptable to all types of therapeutic uses. Therapists often use it in child therapy to help children reduce anxiety and develop a sense of control over their emotions.
Benefits of CBT
The main goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to help clients understand that their thought patterns inform their behavior and that, with work, thought patterns can be changed. This treatment is popular with both clients and therapists because of its many benefits and advantages. CBT is known for being:
- A short-term treatment
- Adaptable to a wide array of disorders and behaviors
- More affordable than some other treatments
- Equally effective in person and online
- Effective as a stand-alone treatment or with other treatments, including medication
One of the greatest benefits of CBT is that it helps people now and in the future. The skills learned through cognitive-behavioral therapy are useful in all aspects of life. Clients can enjoy increased confidence and self-esteem, enhanced goal-setting abilities, and improved interpersonal skills.
What to Expect from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy isn’t reserved only for those with a diagnosable mental illness, but it is highly effective as a treatment for many mental health disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 52.9 million people in the U.S. are living with some type of mental health challenge.
Anxiety over finding a therapist or what therapy will be like is an obstacle to treatment for many people. Knowing what to expect from CBT ahead of time may help you feel more comfortable with the process and encourage those who need professional support to get the help they need.
The first CBT appointment is typically a time for the client and therapist to ask each other questions and establish a working relationship. The therapist may ask about your childhood, education, career, and mental health history and what current challenges are bringing you to therapy. This information helps the therapist to begin developing therapeutic strategies that will be most effective for your specific circumstance.
CBT is a highly individualized approach. Over the course of treatment, the therapist will recommend different CBT techniques for you to try. It may take some collaboration and a willingness to experiment in order to discover which behavioral strategies work best for you.
By the end of successful treatment, clients will have learned to recognize their negative thinking patterns and developed the skills and tools necessary to meet their wellness goals.
Patience is a valuable asset in any type of therapy. Patterns you have developed over a lifetime won’t change after one visit to a therapist, and they won’t change at all if you do not put in the effort. However, CBT is considered to be a short-term form of therapy. It is typical to meet with a therapist once or twice a week for five to 20 weeks.
What Steps Are Involved with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
The steps of CBT are basic and predictable, no matter who your therapist is. However, different techniques may be applied during each step to help make the process more effective for each individual. Typically, the steps include the following:
- Identify the problematic situations currently in your life
- Increase awareness of your thoughts or beliefs related to these situations
- Identify patterns of negative or incorrect thinking
- Reshape negative thinking
Dysfunctional thinking patterns are largely reshaped through the homework assignments recommended by your therapist. Homework is designed to enhance the skills that are needed to think and act in a more positive, functional way.
Your therapist may ask you to keep track of your thoughts in a journal, practice relaxation techniques, or participate in challenges that encourage you to practice what you are learning in therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be an effective approach for those who are genuinely interested in changing their behavior and willing to examine how their thoughts and actions are connected. If you are wondering if CBT may be right for you, contact us today. At Newport Beach Family Development Center we are helping children, families, couples, and individuals find joy in their journey.