Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- (CBT)
A practical approach to change
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a practical and widely used method to effect changes in your life and is used by psychotherapists, psychologists, and even some life coaches. It is a practical behavioral therapy used for many mental health and behavioral challenges including depression, anxiety and phobias. CBT is a modality that helps you re-wire your brain and change the way you think, the way you feel, and consequently, the way you behave.
Because it is almost impossible to make change without both our subconscious and conscious mind pointing in the same direction, willpower, a tool of the conscious mind, is rarely sufficient unto itself. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps to support your willpower, particularly when used with other modalities such as, Psychotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique (EST- Tapping) and Clinical Hypnotherapy.
Our conscious mind, or what we might call our cognitive processes, is what you think of when you think about your thinking mind! And as smart, rational and full of willpower as your conscious mind can be, sometimes this common sense and willpower just doesn’t seem to be enough. Irrational fears are a good example of this challenge. Perhaps you have always been terrified of spiders. For someone with this deep-seated fear they would no doubt be more than a little distressed should you enter a room carrying a jar containing a large tarantula! Now both they and you know consciously, that a spider contained within a jar cannot cause them any harm, but anxiety and panic can easily override this common sense.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be broken down into a couple of components. First, Cognitive Therapy is based on the concept that current conscious ways of thinking can create problematic outcomes both physically and emotionally. In Cognitive Therapy a therapist will help you analyze your current thought patterns to identify any false or unhelpful thoughts and then strategize new ways of thinking to avoid these thoughts or choosing to think other more beneficial thoughts.
The second component of the CBT, Behavioral Therapy, is a therapeutic approach which helps you make choices about behaviors that are harmful, and find different ways of behaving that cause you less harm. There are different ways to encourage different behavior, such as exposure therapy, and mindfulness techniques.
CBT seeks to combine these two therapies through the practical understanding that often how we think reflects how we behave. If we tackle our unhelpful thinking, we can in turn, and at the same time, tackle our unhelpful behaviour.
CBT is usually done in a structured treatment plan over many weeks or months. The length of the treatment is dependent on the severity of the condition and is usually a minimum of 10-15 sessions over the same number of weeks. Most sessions are just under an hour. Initial sessions are spent exploring the problem with your therapist, and the following sessions are implementing a practical strategy to deal with your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, ideas and behaviors around those things in your life that are causing you challenges. You will be asked during your sessions to take home “homework” which may take the form of journaling, insightful questions, and even short meditation processes.
How effective is CBT? Clinical trials have shown that CBT can be a powerful modality in both the short and long term. CBT however does not suit everyone nor is it helpful for every type of condition. CBT requires a high level of commitment and persistence and the homework can be both challenging and take you out of your usual comfort zone when tackling more difficult issues.
If you think CBT may be helpful for you, discuss your thoughts with a skilled psychotherapist or psychologist who is trained in a broad range of modalities including CBT. CBT may well be a fit to help you make profound change in your life, however it is most often effective when used as a part of a customized treatment plan designed by your therapist and you that will include other modalities. No two people are alike, and the best form of therapy is one that accesses your strengths, and is designed to effect change both quickly and powerfully.