Since its emergence in the 1980s, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has become one of the most popular options for treating a wide range of mental health disorders. For cases of depression, research shows that CBT is superior to antidepressant treatment and can be used as an alternative or addition to pharmacological methods.
Its effects are equally robust for generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, and many others. You may have never heard the term, or have heard about it anecdotally—or perhaps you’ve read a lot about it already. Regardless of your familiarity, we’d like to lay out the basics of this incredibly powerful therapy tool to see if it’s a technique that could be helpful for you on your journey to wellness.
How Does CBT Help Cognitive Function?
The essence of CBT is learning to recognize and address cognitive distortions in your everyday life. Cognitive distortions are thought patterns that are repetitive, inaccurate, and often negative. Typically they propel us into a state of mental unwellness, or keep us there. Common examples include overgeneralization, magnifying negatives, catastrophizing, emotional reasoning, and personalization. If you tell yourself, “I’m probably going to fail my driver’s test because I always fail tests,” or “Airplanes are so dangerous, I know it because they feel terrifying,” you are experiencing distorted thinking.
With a bit of perspective and logical thinking, you can be reminded of all the times you’ve passed tests, or statistics on the relative safety of passenger airplanes. CBT helps cognitive function by allowing you to step away from those distortions and separate yourself from anxious thinking. More often than not, these inaccuracies pass under the radar of our consciousness, maybe even for years or decades. They shape the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves, and can turn into pathological behaviors and disorders. By restructuring these narratives and observing the ensuing behavioral changes, CBT is a very action-oriented and results-driven process for improving cognitive function.
Unlike many other types of treatment, CBT involves a rigorous schedule of individual practice. It is essential that this “homework” is carried out between sessions with dedication and focus, because recognizing and reshaping cognitive distortions is a process that takes place in everyday life.
You will be asked to do self-assessments of your thought patterns, especially critical or hostile thinking. You’ll examine the mechanics of your critical behaviors: their duration, frequency, and intensity. Then, you will assess whether your view of the situation is based on fact or an inaccurate perception. This will be challenging, especially at first, because we have deep-seated and long-standing ways of thinking about ourselves. With practice and patience, though, recognizing cognitive distortions as they arise and transforming them into more accurate (and positive) thoughts will become second nature.
Applications of CBT
CBT can be incorporated into a wide range of treatments for different disorders. People who suffer from phobias often undergo exposure therapy, in which they are exposed to the source of their anxiety in manageable doses, with reminders of their safety. A CBT approach can enhance the effects of exposure therapy by providing steady self-reminders that phobias are often rooted in irrational or inaccurate thinking. This mindfulness can help return patients to a feeling of safety around their triggers. Relaxation training can also greatly benefit from the results-driven mindset of CBT. People with chronic stress or anger who are seeking to learn relaxation techniques will find it very helpful to frame these pathologies in terms of cognitive distortions. It’s also worth noting that CBT is a particularly good option for patients who can’t tolerate medication, or suffer from medication-related disorders. For similar reasons, CBT is very useful for children and teenagers, for whom early prescription of drugs can be a complicated issue.
Measurable Results of CBT
Once you begin the practice of documenting the thoughts and behaviors that used to run free, you’ll have a written record of your progress as you work to transform them. This aspect of CBT is what makes it so desirable for many patients, and in turn so effective, because treatments that resonate with you are the ones that will work for you. Motivation, engagement, and patience are the engines that drive real change in your life. If your emotional landscape has ever felt overwhelming or elusive—like something that slips through your fingers and you can never get a grip on—you may find that cognitive behavioral therapy provides the handrail you need.
CBT Therapist Near Me
Blair Wellness Group offers CBT for anyone who may think it may be an effective practice for their mental health issue, trauma, phobia, and more. If you would like to consult with a therapist about CBT, please contact us today. We would be happy to schedule an appointment with you and work with you through any mental health issues which are causing you pain or difficulty.