Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

1 What is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured manner, attending a limited number of sessions.

CBT helps you become aware of accurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations clearly and give a more effective response to them.

CBT can be a very helpful instrument in the treatment of mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder.

But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

The main reasons for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are to treat a wide range of issues.

It is often the preferred type of psychotherapy because it can quickly help you identify and cope with particular challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way.

CBT is a useful tool in addressing emotional challenges. For instance, it may help you:

  • Manage symptoms of mental illness.
  • Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations.
  • Prevent relapse of mental illness problems.
  • Identify ways to manage problems.
  • Treat a mental illness when medications are not the best option.
  • Cope with grief and loss.
  • Cope with a medical illness.
  • Manage chronic physical symptoms.
  • Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate.
  • Overcome emotional trauma related to violence and abuse.
  • Mental health disorders that may improve with CBT include:

In some cases, CBT is most effective when it is combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.

3 Potential Risks

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is only accompanied by a few risks.

Because it can explore painful feelings, emotions and experiences, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. You may cry, get upset or feel angry during a difficult session, or you may also feel physically exhausted.

Certain forms of CBT, such as exposure therapy may require you to confront situations that you would rather avoid, such as airplanes if you have a fear of flying. This can lead to temporary stress or anxiety. However, working with a skilled therapist will reduce the risks.

The coping skills you learn can help you in the process of managing and conquering your fears and negative feelings.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In preparing for your cognitive behavioral therapy, you must follow your doctor’s orders. 

You might make a decision on your own to try cognitive behavioral therapy. Or a doctor or someone else may suggest therapy to you.

Here is how you can get started:

  • Find a therapist: You can get a referral from a doctor, health insurance plan, and a friend or other trusted sources. Many employers offer counseling services or referrals through employee assistance programs (EAPs). Or you can find a therapist on your own, for instance, through a local state psychological association or by searching the internet.
  • Understand the costs: If you have health insurance, find out what coverage it offers for psychotherapy. Some health plan only covers a certain number of therapy sessions a year. You should also talk to your therapist about fees and payment options.
  • Review your concerns: Prior to your initial appointment, think about what issues you would like to work on. While you can sort this out with your therapist, having some sense in advance may provide a starting point.
  • Check qualifications: The term psychotherapist is general, rather than a job title or indication of education, title or licensure. Examples of psychotherapists include psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers licensed marriage and family therapist, psychiatric nurses or other licensed professional with training in mental health.

Before seeing a psychotherapist, check the following:

  • His or her background education: Trained psychotherapists can have a number of different job titles, depending on their education and the role they play. Most have a Master's or doctoral degree with specific training in psychological counseling. Medical doctors with a specialization in mental health (psychiatrists) can prescribe medication as well as provide psychotherapy.
  • His or her certification and licensing: Make sure that the therapist you choose meets state certification and licensing requirements for his or her particular discipline.
  • His or her area of expertise: Ask whether the therapist has expertise and experience treating your symptoms of your area if concern, such as eating disorders or PTSD. The key is finding a skilled therapist who can match the type and intensity of therapy with your needs.

5 Procedure Results

Understanding the results of your cognitive behavioral therapy will be made possible by your doctor.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may not be the cure to your condition or make an unpleasant situation disappear. However, it can give you the ability to cope with your situation in a healthy manner and to feel better about yourself and your life.

Getting the most out of CBT

CBT is not effective for every individual who tries it. But you can take steps to get the most out of your therapy and help make it a success.

  • Approach therapy as a partnership: Therapy is most effective when you are an active participant and share decision-making. Make sure you and your therapist agree about the major issues and how to tackle them. As a team, you can set goals and assess progress over time.
  • Be open and honest: A successful therapy depends on you willingness to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and on being open to new insights and means of doing things. If you are reluctant to talk about particular things because of painful emotions, embarrassment or fear about your therapist’s reaction, let your therapist know about your reservations.
  • Stick to your treatment plan: If you feel down or do not have any motivation, it may be tempting to skip therapy sessions. Doing so can interrupt your progress. Make sure that you attend all sessions and give some thought to what you want to discuss.
  • Do not expect instant results: Working on emotional issues can be painful and often requires hard work. It is common to feel worse during the initial part of therapy as you begin to confront past and present conflicts.
  • Do your homework between sessions: If your therapist asks you to read, keep a journal or do activities outside your regular therapy sessions. Doing these homework assignments will help you apply what you have acquired from the therapy sessions.

If therapy is not helpful, talk to your therapist. You do not feel that you are making any progress with CBT after several sessions, talk to your therapist about it. You and your therapist may decide to make some changes or try another approach.

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