Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
What is cognitive behavioural therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how people’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence their behaviour and how they perceive themselves, others, and the world. Cognitive behavioural therapy targets and breaks down unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions, modifies specific patterns of behaviour, and assists people in developing more functional and flexible ways of thinking.
How does cognitive behavioural therapy work?
CBT therapists provide information which helps you to realize it’s your evaluation of a situation or event rather than the event itself that causes you to experience feelings of anger, pain, or sadness. This distortion of thoughts can create psychological distress if you are prone to automatically think negatively about something that should not be perceived in this manner.
Techniques that are often utilized in CBT are:
- Exposure therapy (exposing clients to triggers that induce anxiety or discomfort without the intent or ability to cause any real harm.)
- Progressive muscle relaxation (isolating and tensing specific sets of muscles for the purpose of stress reduction and relaxation)
- Deep breathing exercises
CBT differs from other therapies because of its emphasis on the theory that how you perceive a problem or situation causes negative or dysfunctional emotions.
For example, if you are stood up by a date, it is not the act of being “stood-up” that causes you to feel angry and hurt – but rather how you view the entire situation. Instead of looking at the event as somehow a reflection of your inadequacy or worthlessness, CBT teaches you to immediately stop that kind of thinking and instead, view the happening as a positive learning experience that has nothing to do with your feeling unworthy.
When considering CBT, it should be noted that this style of therapy is distinct from psychotherapy because it does not concentrate on one’s past nor does it attempt to interpret dream symbols. While psychotherapy involves methods such as free association (letting thoughts flow freely and without censorship), accessing the unconscious, or understanding defense mechanisms, CBT is focused on the here and now, on what you’re experiencing at the present time and how to correct patterns of negative thinking. Neither does CBT advocate group therapy sessions because of the individual nature of thought processes that require a one-on-one environment with the therapist.
This approach uses sound techniques to slow down, eliminate, and halt your own learned reactions. This therapy works on your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and projections on a subject matter and/or circumstance.
Ultimately, CBT deals with those circumstances and events that you’re aware of, rather than dealing with circumstances and events relating to the unconscious. Through a sound therapeutic process, you will learn to respond differently to issues and circumstances and instead, will learn healthy coping mechanisms.
When is cognitive behavioural therapy used?
CBT has been shown to be effective in dealing with a wide variety of issues including:
- Alcohol dependence
- Drug and substance use
- Adolescent and teen issues
- Anger management
- Personality disorders
- Mental health disorders
- Eating disorders
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Cognitive disabilities
- Coping with physical health challenges
- Coping with mental health challenges
- Communications disorders
- Conduct disorder
- Dealing with aging parents
- Dealing with difficult people
- Children’s mental health concerns
- Developmental disorders
- Gender identity
- Emotional regulation
- LGBTQ2S+ issues
- Grief and loss
- Postpartum depression
- Self esteem issues
- Family issues
- Caregiver stress
- Sexuality and intimacy issues
- Men’s sexual issues
- Women’s sexual issues
This type of therapy may be used to treat other conditions and concerns in addition to those listed above. It may also be used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your individual circumstances.
You should be aware that there is no treatment method that is successful for every person. What works for you, may not work for someone else.
What to expect from therapy
Put simply, you will get out of therapy what you put into it. It’s not a magic solution that will solve all your problems. It may involve you doing some real work and being completely honest with yourself and your therapist. Sometimes facing our truth is the hardest thing of all – but from that discomfort can come healing and growth.