A Beginners Guide To Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
Imagine this: You’ve finally worked up the courage to ask your colleague out for dinner. You’ve had a crush on her for quite some time but didn’t have the confidence until now.
You ask her out and she respectfully declines. While she didn’t give a reason, your intrusive thoughts begin to take over as you start thinking, “I’ll never find love. I’m always going to end up alone”. As you arrive home later that night, your intrusive thoughts have only grown louder and louder and you reach for the bottle of whiskey to take the edge off.
These negative thoughts can run our lives from behind the scenes without us even realizing it. They can quickly snowball into something much bigger than the initial situation.
Thankfully, cognitive behavioral therapy aims to address just this.
So, what exactly is cognitive behavioral therapy and how can it better your life? Stick with me. We will discuss the ins and outs of this therapeutic technique and how redirecting your self-destructive thoughts can change your life.
Defining Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or, CBT, is a form of talk therapy used by mental health professionals with the goal of addressing negative thinking patterns and redirecting them into more healthy, productive thoughts. This type of therapy is often recommended because it allows a client to get to the roof of their problems quicker.
A large number of therapists believe that many psychological problems stem from faulty, or inaccurate ways of thinking. By stopping these unhelpful thoughts in their tracks, clients are empowered to not only become aware of their presence, but learn better ways of managing them.
Strategies used in CBT to change thinking and behavioral patterns can include:
● Teaching a client how to recognize the problematic thoughts that are causing issues
● Teaching a client how to look at these unhelpful thoughts in a more realistic light
● Educating a client on common behaviors and motivations of others
● Guiding a client through difficult situations by teaching them new stress management skills
● Empowering a client to face their fears, rather than run from them
● Engage in role play to prepare for potential difficult situations
● Teaching a client calming techniques
Who Can Benefit From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
One of the greatest traits of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it is incredibly versatile. You don’t have to have a mental illness to participate and benefit greatly from CBT. Many clients that simply have the desire to learn how to manage stress better, participate in cognitive behavioral therapy.
Research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is incredibly effective for patients with the following mental illnesses:
● Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
● Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
● Sleeping Disorders
● Eating Disorders
● Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse Disorder
The end goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is teaching a client to become their own therapist. Essentially, patients should be able to learn new coping skills to take forward with them into the real world. This is exactly why CBT is so effective for a wide variety of people.
We all are programmed with thinking patterns instilled in us as children, however, many of us no longer align with them yet don’t realize we have the ability to change. Once we outgrow the way we think, we outgrow the behaviors that followed closely behind.
Are There Any Risks Involed With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Overall, cognitive behavioral therapy has minimal risks.
Some patients may worry that therapy might make things worse. This can happen because CBT involves stirring up feelings, experiences or thoughts you may have once tried to ignore.
At times you may feel uncomfortable, but this is essential for personal growth.
Exposure therapy - used mainly to address life hindering phobias - involves facing your fear head on, and can create temporary anxiety in patients. This stress is short lived however, as exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for overcoming a phobia.
What Will Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sessions Look Like?
When you begin CBT, you can expect to engage in around 5-20 sessions with your therapist.
These sessions will look at specific areas of your life that are causing you problems, through a goal-oriented lens.
‘Homework’ is a common tool used in therapy. Your therapist may ask you to continue activities or readings at home that align with lessons learned during your session. Homework helps you integrate what you’re learning into your daily life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy often follows these few steps:
● Identifying problematic areas or situations in your life, and creating a plan to address the most important.
● Establishing awareness of the way you think about these circumstances, and how these thoughts may be unhelpful.
● Learning how to pay attention to your physical, emotional and behavioral responses to a problematic situation.
● Redirecting negative thoughts, and retraining your brain to think in more beneficial ways.
Based on your current situation, your therapist may choose to only practice CBT, or, they may incorporate other methods of therapy such as interpersonal therapy (working through difficult relationships).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Change Your Life:
If you suffer from negative thinking, or you always find yourself jumping to the worst conclusion possible, it’s likely your brain needs a bit of a reset.
Through CBT, you can reshape the way you think - in order to see the world in a more realistic, yet positive light.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been scientifically proven to alleviate symptoms of many mental illnesses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and OCD.
However, you don’t have to struggle with a mental health problem to reap the benefits CBT can give.
Everyone and anyone can experience the freedom cognitive behavioral therapy brings. It’s never too late to get started on your life changing journey today.