Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is basically type of psychotherapy. You work with a mental health counselor in a structured way, like a psychotherapist or therapist, attending a few sessions. CBT helps you highlight inaccurate or negative thinking so you can easily view challenging situations and respond to them efficiently.
Alone or in combination with other therapies, CBT can be a very helpful tool either in treating mental disorders, like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. However not everyone who benefits from CBT needs to have a condition. It can be used by anyone for assistance in managing stressful life situations.
Why CBT is it done
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used for treatment of a wide range of issues. It’s often a preferred type of psychotherapy since it can quickly help you identify and cope with challenges. Generally, CBT requires fewer sessions than other therapies and is done in a structured way.
CBT is a tool used to address emotional challenges like:
Managing symptoms of mental issues
Preventing a relapse of symptoms of such issues
Treating a mental problem where medications aren’t a valid option
Learning to cope with stressful life situations
Identifying ways to manage emotions
Resolving relationship conflicts and learning to communicate
Coping with grief or loss
Overcoming emotional trauma related to abuse or violence etc
Coping with a medical disorders
Managing chronic physical symptoms
Mental health disorders that can be helped with CBT include:
Sleep disorders like insomnia
Eating disorders like bulimia
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Substance use disorders
In various cases, CBT is most effective when it’s combined with other treatments, for instance antidepressants or other medications.
Risks of CBT
Usually, there’s little risk in getting this therapy. But some still feel uncomfortable at times. This is because the therapy requires you to explore painful feelings, emotions and experiences. You may cry, get furious or feel upset during a challenging session. You may also feel physically exhausted and drained.
Some forms like exposure therapy, require you to confront situations you’d rather avoid to overcome fear and phobia, such as traveling on airplanes if you have a fear of height or flying. This may lead to temporary stress and anxiety.
Luckily, working with a skilled therapist minimizes any risk involved. The coping skills which you learn help you to manage and conquer negative feelings and fears.
How should you prepare
Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises
Many people decide on their own that they want to try CBT. Otherwise a doctor or someone else may suggest it to you. Here’s how to begin;
Find a therapist. Get a referral from your doctor, health insurance plan, family or friends or from other trusted source.
Prepare the budget. If you have health insurance, inquire what coverage it offers for psychotherapy. Discuss about fees and payment options with your therapist.
Point your concerns. Before your first appointment, think about the issues you’d like to work on. Some advance sense may provide a starting point.
Before seeing a specialist, confirm their background and education and make sure that they meet state certification and licensing requirements for their discipline. You can also confirm whether the therapist has expertise in treating your symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques
Steps in CBT
The following are steps of CBT;
First, identify troubling situations and conditions in your life. These may include medical conditions, divorce, grief, anger or symptoms of a disorder. With the help of the therapist, you may spend some time deciding what problems and goals you want to focus on.
View your thoughts, emotions and beliefs over these problems. Once you’ve identified them all, the therapist will encourage you to discuss your feelings about them..
Get rid of negative or inaccurate thinking. You may have difficulty thinking about your life and yourself.
CBT may not cure your condition or end an unpleasant situation. But it gives one the power to cope with out situation in a healthy way and to feel better about ourselves and our life.
Getting the most out of CBT
CBT isn’t efficient for everyone. But we can take a few steps to get the most out of the therapy and help make it successful.
Approach therapy like a partnership. Therapy works when you’re an active participant and have a share in decision-making. Make sure your therapist agrees about the major issues and how to tackle them along with you. Together, both of you can set goals and have progress over time.
Be open, true and honest. A therapy’s success depends on one’s willingness to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences, and on accepting new insights and ways of doing things. Let your therapist know about your reservations in case you’re confused to talk about certain things whether due to painful emotions, embarrassment or fears over your therapist’s reaction.
Stay with your treatment plan. Feeling down or lacking motivation may tempt you to skip therapy sessions. Doing so disrupts the progress. You should try and be punctual with the sessions.
Never expect instant results. Working on emotional issues isn’t magic and often requires hard work. It’s common to feel weird during the initial stage when you begin to confront past and current conflicts. You may need several sessions before you get comfortable or begin to see improvement.
Complete your homework between sessions. When your therapist asks you to read, keep a journal or to do other activities you should follow through. Doing these extra assignments helps you to apply what you’ve learned in the therapy sessions.
In case therapy doesn’t help, inform your therapist. If you don’t feel after several sessions that CBT is benefiting you, talk to your therapist about it. You and the therapist may then mutually decide to make changes or try a different approach accordingly.
Samantha Kindler is a world traveler, with four continents conquered and three remaining. She lives in Hawaii, where she enjoys hiking and has the beach available to her throughout the year. She recently got the opportunity to spend over ten months in Korea and fell in love with their minimalist way of life. She has driven to 49 states with her father, but upon visiting Hawaii, she just wanted to stay.