What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Learn More About Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Is a Type of Treatment That Is Based on the Following

  • Therapy focuses on current problems, but can include a discussion of earlier life experiences in order to understand the impact these experiences have had on current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Consideration is given to current factors in a client’s life in order to determine what might be contributing to and maintaining current distress
  • A weekly commitment to “homework” is expected in order for the client to practice new skills and track progress
  • In an ongoing, flexible and collaborative manner, the client and therapist plan and evaluate treatment
  • CBT tends to be shorter term with clear goals and expectations
  • CBT helps the client to develop the ability to evaluate their own thinking and manage their own behavior in order to maintain progress once therapy is completed
  • The treatment is based firmly on decades of scientific research

Behavior Changes or Goals Might Include

  • A way of acting: like increased engagement enjoyable activities, drinking less or being more assertive
  • A way of feeling: like being less anxious, overwhelmed, depressed or ashamed
  • A way of thinking: like learning to solve problems or challenge self-defeating or scary thoughts
  • A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like learning how to improve sleep, or following good health practices

Common Treatment Strategies

Cognitive behavior therapy involves a variety of treatment strategies. Depending on a particular client’s concerns and goals, therapy is likely to involve some of the following:

Strategies for unhelpful thinking:
Cognitive coping involves identifying and challenging limited thinking patterns that are currently maintaining distorted thoughts and beliefs about oneself, others, and the world. For example, someone with depression could be taught to challenge the assumption that all attempts to connect with friends lead to rejection.
Mindfulness techniques help clients develop a non-judgmental, observational relationship with their thoughts. This is also used for managing difficult feelings.
Problem solving and decision making skills are helpful in connecting a client with what matters to them and identifying a realistic course of action.

Strategies for problem maintaining behaviors:
Exposure is a strategy that involves learning how to gradually begin to participate in situations or activities that clients have been avoiding due to anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, or loss of hope that anything could change. This strategy is carefully planned and carried out in a collaborative fashion; clients gain confidence in being able to have their thoughts and feelings and in turn begin to face previously avoided situations. For example, someone who previously avoided driving for fear of having a panic attack, might learn to confront (rather than simply cope) by gradually getting behind the wheel, then taking small trips in town, and overtime increasing the amount of miles driven, until they meet a goal that is meaningful to them. At the same time, the therapist and client will work on facing the physical feelings of anxiety or panic.
Pleasant activity scheduling involves starting small and building from there by engaging in a set amount of activities that promote enjoyment and / or mastery.
Learning new skills for communicating more effectively or being more assertive are additional strategies that might be taught.
Strategies to address difficult feelings:
Acceptance of emotions is a skill that is often taught to help clients face more effectively the painful emotions that are an inevitable part of life.
Distress tolerance is another strategy helpful in managing extreme emotional reactions and self-harm urges.
Relaxation exercises are taught to help reduce overall physical tension or to help retrain effective breathing.

Putting it all together
Drawing from the strategies above, therapists who use CBT help clients identify and focus on the interplay between beliefs about their lives, related feelings, and corresponding behaviors. Understanding the relationship of these components allows the therapist and client to devise therapeutic exercises for particular points in this connected cycle. For instance, challenging negative thoughts about oneself or a situation, can lead to less fear or hurt, and more willingness to try new behaviors and activities. This, in turn, might lead to the desired change of improving relationships.
Schedule an appointment with the certified therapists at New Leaf Professional Counseling. Contact our Charleston or Mt. Zion location today.
Cognitive behavior therapists help clients identify and focus on the interplay between beliefs about their lives, related feelings, and corresponding behaviors, rather than on personality traits or perceived flaws.
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