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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: All You Need to Know

What is cognitive behavioral therapy? It’s a form of psychotherapy that helps you recognize and change the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that might be contributing to your anxiety or depression. Because of its high rate of success, it’s also one of the most popular. It can help you better manage stress, worry, panic attacks, anger issues, mental illnesses, etc.

The History of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. He began working on this after he noticed that his patients had internal monologues that almost seemed as if they were talking with themselves. He also noticed that the more emotionally a thought was influenced, the more automatic it was. He thought that because these thoughts were automatic, they could be studied and changed.

The Development of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

After the 1960s, where it was first studied for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, it quickly became an alternative to psychoanalysis. Beck believed that different types of mental illnesses are caused by distorted thinking or cognition, which then leads to negative feelings such as stress, anger, fear, etc., finally resulting in certain behavior patterns like avoidance (of social situations), withdrawal from society, and other regressive behaviors. Over decades, this belief has been proven.

What CBT Aims to Do

The aim of this form of treatment is to change negative thinking patterns that are causing distress or interfering with wellbeing into positive ones. This type of psychotherapy has been proven time and time again as an effective method for reducing stress, anxiety, & other mood problems including depression. It has since grown to also help those with substance abuse problems, eating disorders, anger management issues, sexual assault victims, and more.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

The process of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is fairly straightforward and consists of four steps:

First, the therapist works to develop a better understanding of your thoughts and feelings, then together you come up with a plan to change negative mental patterns. 

Next, the patient and therapist work on changing behaviors that might be causing or worsening the mental illness. In this step, the therapist often helps the patient identify and work through any core beliefs that might be leading to negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. This is where the patient identifies these beliefs and begins to disprove them and act against them.

After that, you start to apply what you’ve learned from therapy in your daily life by practicing new methods of coping with stress or anxiety. Taking matters into your own hands in this step rather than just talking about it helps you to put everything into perspective and really change your thought process.

Finally, the therapist and patient review progress and set a plan for follow-up sessions to make sure they are continuing on a path of success. While it is not always a lifelong process, many choose to keep seeing their therapists as long as they feel like their issues are being addressed and resolved.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

There are a variety of techniques that cognitive behavioral therapists use that you can apply to your own life. These include:

  • Keeping a thought journal
  • Overcoming avoidance & withdrawal
  • Changing negative core beliefs
  • Setting goals for yourself (and working towards them)
  • Managing stress with meditation or yoga
  • Finding healthier ways of coping when faced with challenges
  • Cognitive restructuring

Who benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy?

Today, cognitive behavioral therapy is not what it used to be. It is now used to treat many conditions & disorders including depression and other mood disorders, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), panic disorder, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), phobias, social anxiety, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), eating disorders, feeding disorders, drug and alcohol addictions, anger management problems, and behavioral problems for children with ADHD and other mental illnesses. 

Because cognitive behavioral therapy can help you better manage so many different types of issues, it is a very popular method of treatment. And, because of its high level of accessibility, patients can find affordable therapists who will meet them online from the comfort of their own homes.

How Successful Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be very successful. In fact, it’s such a popular method of treatment that many insurance companies will even cover some or all of the costs associated with seeing a therapist if you have an approved diagnosis for depression or another mood disorder.

What Are Some Tips For Finding A Good Therapist?

As we mentioned earlier in this article, there are different types of therapists and psychologists who offer CBT sessions (and more). Because they all work differently depending on their education & training, you’ll want to make sure your therapist fits what YOU need. So before beginning any type of therapy session with anyone at any level:

  • Ask them about their educational background/training
  • Check whether they are licensed
  • Do they work with your insurance company? (If you have one)

When choosing a therapist, it is important to find someone that you feel comfortable working with as well. You should never be made to feel uncomfortable or judged in any way during therapy sessions & this includes the very first session when evaluating whether they are right for you.

If at any point throughout treatment you don’t think your therapist is helping, speak up! And if things aren’t improving after several months of CBT, then it’s time to look elsewhere and try something different rather than staying stuck where you are now. As always, we recommend checking out our directory for affordable therapists near where you live who can help address whatever mental health condition might be causing distress in your life.

Hopefully, by now you have a better idea of what cognitive behavioral therapy is and how it can help address your personal issues. And if you are on the fence about starting this type of treatment with someone who has been properly educated in CBT (and maybe even specializes in helping clients like yourself), then remember that there really isn’t any downside to trying out counseling or seeing a therapist for an initial session to see whether they might be a good fit.

John Harper

#1 File Information bestselling author John Harper loves to dispel the myth that smart men & women don’t read (or write) romance, and if you watch reruns of the game show The Weakest Link you might just catch him winning the $77,000 jackpot. In 2021, Netflix will premiere Bridgerton, based on his popular series of novels about the Why Files.
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