- How Does It Work?
- 5 Types of CBT
- Therapeutic Techniques
- Advantages & Limitations
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy. It helps people manage their emotional and behavioral problems by changing the way they perceive the world and react to it.
CBT is based on the principle that thoughts, feelings, and perceptions influence behavior and that all these factors have an influence on the well-being of a person. It focuses on modifying negative emotions, beliefs, and thoughts. It uses practical self-help strategies for individuals, families, and groups to bring about immediate positive changes to improve the quality of life. It is suitable to treat people of all ages, including children, adolescents, and adults. However, the earlier it is initiated, the better are the effects. CBT is often used to treat anxiety and depression. Moreover, it is used to manage developmental disorders of childhood such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia, and a wide range of mental health disorders and conditions in adults such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, and so on.
How does cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) work?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works on the following core concepts.
- Thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected, and negative thoughts and feelings can trap a person in a vicious cycle.
- These thoughts and behavior patterns can be changed.
CBT usually involves five to 20 sessions, each lasting for 30-60 minutes with one session per week or once every 2 weeks.
During these sessions, the therapist will help work out strategies with the patient to focus on the problem (thinking traps), address the negative thoughts and behavior patterns that have a detrimental influence, and replace them with more objective, realistic thoughts that improve the mood. CBT focuses on present thoughts and beliefs rather than issues from the past.
What are the types of cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) encompasses a range of cognitive and behavioral techniques and approaches from structured psychotherapies to self-help materials.
Therapeutic approaches of CBT
Cognitive therapy: It helps a person identify and challenge inaccurate or distorted thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors and provides healthier strategies to change them. This is also called cognitive restructuring.
Behavior therapy: It teaches techniques or skills to alter negative behavior patterns with more positive behaviors.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): It addresses and changes negative thoughts and behaviors by incorporating strategies such as emotional regulation and mindfulness.
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT): It involves identifying irrational beliefs and learning to change these thought patterns.
Multimodal therapy: It addresses seven different interconnected modalities, namely, behavior, feeling, imagination, cognition, interpersonal factors, emotions, and biological considerations.
Therapeutic techniques of CBT
Some of the popular techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) include the following:
- Identifying negative thoughts: By questioning assumptions that one has about him- or herself or the current situation, the therapist can lead a person to self-discovery and identify negative thoughts.
- Journaling: The therapist can get the information they need for therapy by asking the patient to jot down their negative beliefs that come up during the week.
- Goal-setting: The therapist may ask the patient to set short-term and long-term SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based, focusing on the end outcome.
- Self-talk: The therapist may ask the patient to replace negative or critical self-talk with compassionate, constructive self-talk.
- Problem-solving: Learning problem-solving skills helps the patient consider different viewpoints and reduce the negative effect of psychological and physical illness.
- Positive activities: Scheduling a rewarding activity each day can help increase the patient’s overall positivity and improve their mood.
- Systematic desensitization: The patient will learn relaxation techniques to help cope with their feelings in a difficult situation.
- Situation exposure or role-play: This involves slowly exposing the patient to situations or things that cause distress until they lead to fewer negative feelings.
- Homework: Practicing new skills and strategies in real-world situations is another important part of CBT. Assignments might involve the patient practicing new developing skills to deal with social situations that could potentially trigger a relapse.
What are the uses of cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating the following mental health conditions:
- Eating disorders, such as binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling)
- Addiction and substance use disorders
- Antisocial behaviors (lying, stealing, hurting animals, or other people)
- Gambling problems
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Conduct disorder
- Habits such as facial tics
- Mood swings
- Borderline personality disorders
- Panic disorder
- Sexual issues
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia
- Social skill problems
- Anger-management issues
- Irrational fears
- Other mental disorders
Other than treating a specific mental health condition, CBT can help people with the following problems:
- Low self-esteem
- General life stress
- Relationship difficulties
- Breakup or divorce
- Grief or loss
- Chronic pain or serious illness
Moreover, CBT is sometimes used to treat long-term health conditions. CBT cannot cure these conditions but can help people cope better with their symptoms. These health conditions include
What are the advantages and limitations of CBT?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be as effective as medications in treating some mental health problems, but it may not be suitable for everyone.
Advantages of CBT include the following:
- Helpful in cases where using only medications have not worked
- Requires shorter treatment period than other talking therapies
- Highly structured in nature, so it can be delivered in different formats, including in groups, self-help books, and apps
- Teaches strategies that can be used in everyday life, even after the treatment
Limitations of CBT include the following:
- Some psychoanalysts think that CBT oversimplifies mental health issues.
- People will benefit most only when they are fully committed and they cooperate with the therapy.
- CBT involves confronting personal emotions and anxieties.
- It takes up a lot of time for attending sessions and homework.
- It does not address wider problems in the family or system.
- It may not address the possible underlying causes of mental health conditions.
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. "Cognitive behavioral therapy." 2013 Aug 7 [Updated 2016 Sep 8]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279297/.
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