WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has gained increasing attention as a scientifically supported treatment for many conditions, including depression and bipolar spectrum disorders, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, phobias, stress, low self esteem, and poor body image. You’ve probably heard of CBT. But what is it?
CBT is concerned with the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and more specifically with how thoughts can influence the way we feel about and respond to life events. Cognitive behavioral theory asserts that emotional distress often results from maladaptive thought patterns, or beliefs about ourselves and our circumstances that are unrealistic. Examples of maladaptive thinking include, “I am not worthy unless I am liked by everyone,” and, “I didn’t pass the exam because I am a bad student.”
While we all engage in faulty thinking now and then, some of us unknowingly become fixed in problematic thought patterns, usually developed over a lifetime, that predispose us to experiences like anxiety and depression. CBT aims to challenge those beliefs that lead to emotional distress and unwanted behaviors with treatment that is both focused and time-limited.
HOW CAN CBT HELP ME?
By now, you may suspect that your beliefs about yourself and the world are adversely affecting your ability to lead an emotionally balanced and productive life. You might also wonder if it is possible to overcome the negative cycles that are so familiar to you.
Many people have experienced relief from deep-rooted suffering through the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT provides not just short term relief, but the skills to manage problems long after therapy has ended. With compassion, dedication, the right information, and the right approach, it is possible to succeed over that which seems hopeless.
Our work together will be founded on a shared commitment to create a supportive space in which we seek and address the underlying causes of your problems. In the beginning, we will review the concerns that brought you to therapy, and explore your history in order to understand how life experiences led to the development of your beliefs and coping strategies. As we identify problematic thinking and behavior patterns, we will challenge them through thought restructuring and/or behavioral experiments. We will also explore coping strategies, like relaxation and mindfulness exercises, to improve your ability to manage difficult feelings. CBT is structured, meaning in every session, we will set and follow an agenda to maximize efficiency, learning, and change. You will also be asked to work outside of our meetings to gain mastery of the techniques. This will accelerate your progress.
Periodically, we will assess your progress, and may modify our approach. The more you are able to employ the strategies of CBT on your own, the closer we will be to ending treatment. When you are ready, we will taper our appointments so that you can enjoy increased independence and still have the opportunity to address new obstacles that may arise. Of course, if after therapy has ended, you need to return for maintenance, or to address new issues, the door will be open to you.
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