Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based psycho-social intervention designed to improve mental health functioning. This type of treatment is designed to help patients meet their goals in the near future rather than over the course of the lifetime. Goals of treatment focus on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing new problem-solving coping strategies. Tools utilized in treatment may include journaling, mindfulness meditation, cognitive restructuring, interoceptive exposure, role playing, progressive muscle relaxation, and relaxed breathing.
Overall, research has shown CBT to be an effective treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
CBT is based on the belief that mental health disorders arise from maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. Through learning new cognitive processing skills and behaviors/coping strategies, symptoms of these disorders can be reduced. Treatment is somewhat structured and is composed of different stages involving assessment, cognitive reframing (the “c” of CBT), skill acquisition and application (the “b” of CBT), maintenance, termination, and booster sessions.
During the beginning of treatment, the therapist will take several sessions to thoroughly assess and properly diagnosis the client and review the treatment options. This includes an overview of the stages of treatment and whether a referral for medication assistance is warranted. If there is agreement to proceed with CBT, the therapist will continue the assessment and begin to assist the individual in identifying cognitive distortions, or errors in thinking. Cognitive distortions reinforce the way a person thinks and acts, can reinforce emotional distress and self-defeating behavioral patterns. The therapist utilizes techniques to challenge cognitive distortions and help an individual become more open, mindful, and aware of how these distortions affect their feelings and behaviors.
Next the therapist helps the client learn and establish new behaviors or coping strategies. This is the “B” of the behavioral part of treatment that for many can create an aversive reaction to treatment. This stage is more specifically defined based on an individual’s treatment goals and diagnosis and involves the individual engaging in activity within and outside of session. For example, CBT for depression involves interventions that focus on helping clients re-engage in activities that they value and previously gave up before they became depressed. CBT for social anxiety may include the creation of a social anxiety hierarchy and engagement in in-vivo exposures as well as teaching breath retraining.
After skill acquisition and application, treatment enters the final stages involving maintenance, termination and booster sessions. The goal of these stages includes empowering the individual to become independent, and feel more confident and in control of themselves.
Frequently when individuals discuss their experiences of having previously engaged in CBT, they disclosed they only engaged in “talk therapy” or “cognitive therapy” rather than cognitive-behavioral therapy. These patients have challenged their cognitive distortions but have struggled or have neglected to learn and generalize new coping skills and establish new adaptive behaviors. If you have only engaged in “talk therapy” with a treatment provider, you have not engaged in true CBT.
At Beach Therapy and Consulting, our therapists are trained to assess your treatment needs and create your own individualized treatment plan to expedite your healing from whatever mental health issue giving you difficulty.