Healthy Living

Everything You Need to Know About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Everything You Need to Know About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Key Takeaways

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is treated as an integration of two major therapies: psychotherapy and behavioral therapy.
  • Once we believe something is true, we have a tendency to block anything that contradicts it from our minds.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy will help you tackle your problems by allowing you to see how your thinking leads you to negative behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy treatment that involves a direct and practical approach to solving problems. It is short-term and focuses on changing the behavioral and thinking patterns of an individual so as to change the way he or she is feeling. It has proved to be effective in treating a wide range of psychologically-related problems such as lack of sleep, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, and relationship issues.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has several advantages, the most important being that it takes only 40 weeks, and you attend just a 1-hour session per week in these 40 weeks. You will need to work closely with your therapist to set therapy goals, come up with strategies, and tackle your problems. You will learn new problem-tackling concepts and set standards to apply in life situations whenever you need to. It is a ten-month experience that can help you your whole lifetime.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is treated as an integration of two major therapies: psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy relates our problems and tries to solve them. On the other hand, psychotherapy is concerned with how we perceive things and how we think, starting from their roots in early childhood. When you discuss your situation with a CBT professional, they put their focus on your specific problems and on your personality. This combination will help your professional forge the best way to your recovery.

Evolution of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It started from the works of psychiatrist Aaron Beck. In the 1960s, Aaron Beck began keeping analytical records of his patients. He noticed during their session that his patients were having dialogues within themselves. Few reported these internal conversations to him. Some of them recorded only a fraction of these internal conversations, while others never reported anything at all.

For instance, during therapy, the patient might be asking himself or herself questions like, "Is what he (the therapist) is saying really necessary?”, “Is he annoyed or is he tired of attending to me?” These kinds of thoughts might spark different feelings in the patient. They may either be anxious or annoyed. These feelings will then spark another stream of internal questions. “Have I been talking about the things I should?" This second streak of questions might totally change the feelings of the client.

Aaron Beck noticed there was a relationship between feeling and thoughts, and that this linkage is very important. Aaron then arrived at the concept of automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts entail and describe emotionally-rich thoughts that come to the mind. He noticed that the occurrence of automatic thoughts on people did not really mean they were aware of them, but they could master how to notice and record them. He had a realization about negative perception, which was neither realistic nor helpful but that could make a person so upset. With this discovery, he learned that the identification of automatic thoughts was very important in helping his clients control and overcome difficulties.

Because of the emphasis of this therapy on thinking, Aaron Beck called it cognitive therapy. After continuation of the studies on this therapy by other people, the name was changed to cognitive behavioral therapy. There are several types of cognitive behavioral therapies, and how the therapist balances the use of behavioral and cognitive techniques varies in different therapies of cognitive behavioral therapies. Today, cognitive behavioral therapy is used in solving a wide variety of clients’ challenges; it has also been modified, and research around it has been proved by several scientific trials and medical practicals.

How Do Negative Thoughts Affect Us and Our Decisions?

The cognitive behavioral therapy conception of negative thoughts states that events that occur do not upset us. Rather, it is how we see and think about the events, or how we perceive them, that upsets us. Once we believe something is true, we have a tendency to block anything that contradicts it from our minds. We have a tendency to easily reject anything new to our minds or simply fail to learn.

For example, a depressed football player may think, “I can’t face that team because we can’t match their standards, they are well funded, they have better players, they have better training facilities, we will not even score.” The player believes these thoughts, and this may make him fake sickness or may bring his morale down during training, and this may result in him being ruled not fit enough to face that opponent team.  He then misses the chance to give it a shot. Had he tried, he could have noticed some weaknesses of the other team, some of his personal strengths as a player, and the strengths and weaknesses of his own team. In case his team loses, the player's situation will get worse, and he would end up having thoughts like, “Maybe if I had been there, we would've done better,” and “I have let my whole team down.” But these could be followed by, “What if I had been there and my teammates noticed I did not give it my best? My teammates would be so angry now and dislike me.”  Then the train of thoughts could move on to “Am I not the same as everyone? How come I can’t do what everyone is doing?” These negative thoughts will continue worsening and compromising the activities of the player so that he might miss the next matches too. This kind of cycle can apply in many different challenges.

Where Do You Get The Negative Thoughts From?

Aaron Beck records that how we think is molded from our childhood. They become the person’s automatic thinking checklist. For example, if during childhood a person did not get so much love from his busy parents, but that person went to church and was rewarded for attending and praised by the clergy for being a good disciple, the person might eventually start thinking, “I have to go to church and worship regularly. If I don’t, I will be rejected by everyone.” This perception is called dysfunctional assumption. In most cases, it helps a person a lot as it drives them to work smarter and harder. However, some extraordinary misfortune may happen that that person can’t get a grip of, and triggers the person’s dysfunctional assumptions and affect him very nehatively. The person will experience negative automatic thoughts such as, “I can’t face my friends, they are better than me, I am cursed, I cannot do anything successful, and how can I tell my parents this?”

Cognitive behavioral therapy will help you comprehend what is happening. You will have the ability to stand to one side and put your problems on the other, and then analyze them instead of having automatic thoughts. It will also help you understand how to try out your thoughts and help you consider real life experience to know your position and the positions of others in similar events. You will learn that in reality, you may have the chance of knowing what other people think by engaging them, if you tell them some of the challenges. You will also know what situations feel like by engaging in them, and you might find out it is not even hard as you thought.

Negative happenings are inevitable in life. But if we use our negative thoughts and negative patterns in making decisions, our judgment will be clouded by these thoughts. This would probably only make situations worse. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help you overcome such difficulties and help you live a happier life.