Written by Andrea H. and reviewed by TWCCLLC counselors
Welcome back to our series exploring different types of therapy! This post is about an approach counselors very commonly take with clients to navigate through challenging situations; either as a stand-alone therapy, or in combination with other techniques: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
What it is
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a form of talk therapy that takes fewer sessions than other methods to achieve results (generally 5-20 sessions). CBT focuses on the self-talk or internal dialogue a client is having about a specific challenge. These thoughts and accompanying emotions and core beliefs are examined in order to find a resolution. The goal of CBT is to identify where one’s thinking is inaccurate or maladaptive and then work to revamp those thoughts using a more objective perspective of the situation.
In essence, CBT strives to help the client see a situation more accurately and adaptively which builds mental well-being instead of
negative thoughts playing on repeat and amplifying unhappiness.
CBT looks at thoughts as the building blocks for the rest of one’s life. Emotions, perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors all stem from individual thoughts. When these thoughts are negative and then repeated over and over, they form a pattern of thought that harms situations and one’s well-being. A therapist employs CBT to help us identify negative automatic thoughts so we can balance them out with thoughts that are accurate and helpful. Inevitably, having healthier building blocks inside our minds will build a better life.
Everyone has inaccurate thoughts, even the healthiest and happiest people. It is part of the human experience to form skewed views when we are young and then refine our awareness as we mature. The therapy world has a name for these irrational thoughts: cognitive distortions. There are many types, some of which you’ll no doubt recognize in yourself and others. However, some common cognitive distortions may surprise you. Only a few are discussed here, but a search of reputable online sources will help you gain a better understanding.
Polarized or Black and White Thinking: the tendency to think in absolutes, i.e. all/nothing, good/bad, right/wrong/, us/them. Example: “I’m a complete failure!” versus a more objective view using realistic optimism, “I am good at many things, and there are some areas I can improve in.”
Personalization: thinking that you are responsible for and feel guilty about things that are not in your control and where many factors are at play. For example, your partner snaps at you and you assume the blame, feel ashamed, and try to figure out what you did wrong, so you don’t do it again. However, in reality, they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious and you did nothing that warranted their response.
Fairness Fallacy: the belief that things should always be fair and equal, and that we personally have a correct understanding of what is fair in situations. The truth is that life is not fair, and our own ideas of fairness are subjective/based on our personal experiences. This often leads to feelings of anger and resentment as well as blaming others when many factors were causing a situation- some of which were our own responsibility.
How it Began
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was founded by Aaron Beck, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s. He noticed a pattern of entrenched, negative thoughts in his patients that he believed kept them from overcoming depression and other disorders. He also wanted a more practical and scientifically validated form of therapy to use with his clients. He was highly influenced by the emerging therapeutic approach of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. REBT and CBT share the basis that changing irrational and negative thoughts to more balanced and objective thoughts will change a person’s emotions and behaviors for the better.
Who it Helps
After decades of development, CBT is now considered a highly effective, evidence-based form of therapy appropriate for all ages. It is effective for many types of disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, one doesn’t have to have a disorder to benefit from CBT. Everyone’s well-being can improve by modifying negative and inaccurate thoughts, and as previously stated, we all have them! In addition, CBT poses very little risk to clients, aside from momentary emotional discomfort.
If you feel like you can benefit from CBT with a therapist, contact us by call or text at (816) 974-7378 to explore sessions at one of our three locations (Greenwood and Harrisonville, Missouri as well as our Prairie Wellness office in Overland Park, Kansas).
Thank you for being with us here at The Well! Check back in late November as we explore another featured therapy, and as always… be well.♥️