What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
It is your own way of discussing:
- Your thoughts about yourself, others, and the world
- How your actions affect your thinking and your feelings
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy influences your thinking (Cognitive) and your actions (Behavior). The therapy can help you feel better. It focuses on your present (here and now) instead of focusing on the past causes of your frustration. This, unlike other talking therapies, stresses the improvement of your present state of mind.
When does CBT become helpful?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be useful in improving the following conditions:
- Phobias including agoraphobia and social phobia
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder and psychosis
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may also help boost your self esteem, improve your physical health, or help you in anger management.
How does it work?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy breaks down huge problems into smaller parts. After looking at the different parts, you will see how you are affected and how the parts are connected. The following are the broken down parts of a problem, a difficult event, or a challenging situation:
- Physical feelings
Each part from the above list is correlated. For example, what you think about a challenging situation affects your emotions and actions. Everything about life correlates like the above mentioned parts. Anything that changes one of the parts affects all the others.
You may react to a situation either in a useful way or in an unhelpful manner depending on how you think.
A good example:
Your day was not so good; you decide to take an evening stroll to cut down your stress. As you walk in the neighborhood, one of your neighbors ignores you. This sparks a series of:
This neighbor does not like you
Is something wrong with your neighbor? He/she doesn’t seem okay
You feel rejected, low, and sad
You are concerned about your neighbor
You have a sick feeling and you start to experience cramps
You just feel comfortable with your stroll
You go and lock yourself home
You reach out for your neighbor to see if they are okay
You notice the situation is just the same but have both helpful and unhelpful results.
What you did and how you reacted was generally affected by your own feeling. In the unhelpful column, you jump into conclusions, this escalades to a string of unhelpful reactions because:
- You have had a number of feelings that are uncomfortable.
- You are behaving in a manner that worsens your situation.
In case you end up home alone, you will feel worse since you will just be brooding on the situation. Chances are you will look at yourself differently and feel good about yourself if you get in touch with your neighbor.
In case there was a misunderstanding between you and your neighbor, chances are if you get in touch you will solve it and you will be content and feel good about yourself. If you don’t get in touch, you may worsen your situation.
This unhelpful cycle will only make your situation worse. It can even create newer situations that will affect you negatively. The way you interpret things will be affected by negative feelings and you may end up feeling just worse than before.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you break this cycle of unhelpful thoughts and actions. When you study the parts of the sequence, you can know how to deal with them appropriately. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you solve your own problems.
What CBT involves
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be taken either on a computer program or with a book. It can be taken individually or as a group. In case you are alone:
- Expect a schedule of 5-20 times in two weeks. Each session should last for around 45 minutes.
- The first sessions are to confirm whether or not you are comfortable with the therapy. You and the therapist will help confirm if you are comfortable with the treatment or not.
- You will go through your past life together with the therapist. Even though Cognitive Behavioral Therapy deals with present situations, you will need to discuss your past with your therapist to understand how it is affecting you now.
- It is you who decides what to talk about and how to do it in the long and short run.
- Each day, you will come to an agreement with your therapist on what subject to talk about.
- With the help of your therapist, you will study the pattern of your thoughts and behavior. It is necessary to keep a diary. With this, you will identify your own actions, emotions, your feelings and thoughts.
- When you look at your feelings and thoughts, you will see if they are:
- Not realistic or helpful
- How they influence each other and how they affect you.
- The therapist will help you see how to correct unhelpful behavior and thoughts.
- Your therapist will assign homework for you to start practicing the changes you have seen.
- On your next session, you and your therapist will talk about your progress from the last session.
- You will notice that the therapist will not require anything from you. You will be making your own decisions.
- You will continue to practice what you got from the therapy in everyday life.
The effectiveness of CBT
- CBT is known to be one of the most effective ways for correcting depression and other conditions that are anxiety related.
- CBT is also known to be most effective in the treatment of persistent depression.
- It is, in some cases, considered to be more effective than antidepressants.
There are other types of treatments for depression. This is how they compare with CBT. CBT is used in various situations and conditions. It is impossible to list all these conditions; however, the most common conditions are:
- If CBT is not doing you good, you may try other types of talking therapies.
- In treating depression and correcting anxiety, CBT works better than antidepressants.
- In very severe cases of depression, antidepressants will be used alongside CBT.
- Instead of tranquilizers, use CBT to treat anxiety in the long run.
Problems with CBT
- With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the therapist does not fix you but helps you know how to fix yourself.
- It is hard to motivate anyone if they are feeling low because their concentration may also be low.
- You may feel more anxious in the short run as you are required to confront anxiety in order to overcome it.
How long will it last?
CBT takes around 6 months at most, and it mainly depends on the kind of issue and the final outcome.
What if the symptoms come back?
In any case your depression comes back, you are supposed to be in a position to deal with it using the skills you acquire from the therapy. If not, you may require a second course. It is recommended that you keep applying the skills you acquired from the CBT treatment to your daily activities even after you are back to normal. Studies have suggested that CBT is preferred in treating depression in order to avoid it from coming back.