Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy, also called talk therapy.
The CBT approach is backed by scientific evidence from over 1,000 research studies
and is considered the gold standard of evidence-based therapy.
It has been shown to help with a variety of issues, like difficulty sleeping, relationship
problems, anxiety, and depression. CBT is not what you may think of when you
think of “therapy”. Rather than reflecting on early childhood experiences as a key part of the therapeutic process, CBT focuses on using effective techniques to manage how you’re feeling in the present moment.
The ABCs of CBT
The core of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is this: how you think and act affects how you
feel. How you think is the “Cognitive” piece. How you act – that’s the “Behavioral” piece. Sometimes, psychological problems are shaped by distorted or unhelpful ways of thinking. Other times, they arise from learned patterns of unhelpful behavior. CBT helps people who suffer as a result of unhelpful patterns of thinking or acting learn better coping strategies, which relieves psychological distress and improves overall well-being over time.
CBT uses techniques to help you increase your own awareness about how you think, act, and feel. When your emotions start to overwhelm you, what do you think about? What topics do you tend of focus on? Or, how do you react to a stressful situation? Do you try to avoid it? Do you find yourself spiraling into a never-ending cycle of worry? Many people become stuck in an unhelpful pattern of thoughts or behaviors. By being more aware of how this cycle affects you, you can then begin to change them.
Let’s dig into the ‘Cognitive” part of CBT a little more. The way you feel is more closely tied to how you interpret a situation rather than the\ situation itself. These interpretations can be
due to distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns.
For example, you wave at a friend who is walking on the other side of the city street,
but she doesn’t wave back. You think, “She didn’t wave at me, so she
must hate me.” Your mood immediately plummets. While that is a possibility, maybe you don’t have the full story. Might you be jumping to conclusions? What’s the evidence for this
thought? What’s the evidence against this thought?
There are other ways to interpret the situation too: maybe she didn’t recognize you, or maybe she had somewhere very urgent to get to, or maybe she was distracted by her phone. If your interpretation of the situation was different, then perhaps your mood would have been different too.
Benefits of CBT
Through CBT, you can: Learn to recognize the distortions in your thinking and reinterpret them into more realistic or helpful thoughts Understand patterns in your
Obtain a better understanding of the motivations or behaviors of other people. Take back control of the power that strong emotions have over you.
Utilize problem-solving skills to cope with stressful situations. Learn more effective ways to manage overwhelming emotions. Improve your self-confidence and self-efficacy.