Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known by the abbreviation as CBT) is described by fellow mental health professional, Ben Martin Psy.D of Psyche Central as a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving.
Most professionals would agree its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavioral that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems, to drug and alcohol abuse or anxiety and depression. CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and thereby focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that we hold (our cognitive processes) and how this relates to the way we behave, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.
We have found that the important advantage of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it tends to be short, taking just months for most emotional problems. Ideally, clients attend one session per week, each session lasting about an hour. During this time, we are working together to understand what the problems are and to develop a new strategy for tackling them. CBT introduces our clients to a set of principles that they can apply whenever they need to, and which will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. Behavioral therapy pays close attention to the relationship between our problems, our behavior and our thoughts. CBT is based on the idea that it’s not the events themselves that upset us but the meanings we give them.
One might encounter a situation, thinking, “This always happens to me. I’m a failure.” Instead of focusing on the specifics of the event, deciding on how to deal with them- leaving out the negative generalizations. Thinking, behaving and feeling this debilitating way may start a downward spiral. CBT helps people to correct these misinterpretations.
As we employ Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, sessions have a structure. At the outset, we work together to set goals to work towards. These problems and goals become the basis for planning the content of the next sessions. It is then that we discuss how to deal with them. In effect, we set up a treatment plan.
We often discuss what can be done between sessions – homework! This a vital part of the process. We may ask our client to keep a diary of any incidents that provoke anxiety or depression (for example). In our jargon, these are called “triggers”.
As the sessions progress, we take an active part in structuring what we work on. And as progress is made, and our client begins to grasp these principles he/she find helpful, they take more and more responsibility for the content of subsequent sessions. That way CBT brings us and our client into a relationship they may not have had before. We collaborate rather than “telling what to do”. By the end of the series he/she feels empowered to continue working independently.
Finally, Cognitive Behavior Therapy is not a miracle cure. We therapists need considerable expertise and our client must be prepared to be persistent, open and brave.
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