The underlying basis of this theory is that it is our thoughts and the direction those thoughts take that control our behavior and essentially how we view the world. It seeks to change our thoughts patterns and how we think of certain things in our mind to accomplish the overall goal of changing our behaviors. Inward thoughts effect outward behavior. Through this therapy we can learn to distinguish difference between thoughts and feelings and how each effects’ us accordingly.
A good example of this is public speaking. I’m pretty sure everyone is afraid of public speaking in some form or fashion or on some level or another. Part of the reason for this fear may be how you think about the experience before it even happens. You assume in your mind that when you’re in front of a group of people you’re going to say something or even do something embarrassing and everyone in the audience is going to laugh at you. Those thoughts feed into your fear of public speaking and depending on the degree of that fear and the depth of those thoughts it may control whether you’re even able to get up in front of a crowd at all. CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would assist you in trying to change how you think about your actions in front of that crowd in essence helping you to get over that fear.
You can’t control everything in the world. The actions and thoughts of others are not within your realm of control. But what is within your realm of control is your own thoughts and how you react to situations. CBT is also one of the most widely used modalities in therapy today and has several years of empirical evidence to back it up as to its usefulness in helping clients in the short term. It is a quick way to find a solution to a problem, whether it is getting over a fear, or just changing a maladaptive behavior that is effecting your everyday life.
This theory offers many different appeals for both the therapist as well as the client. There are several techniques that will help you, the client, move toward your goal. This type of therapy offers short term relief; so relief is definitely in sight. It also focuses on your present or your current mindset and does not delve into your childhood or past experiences like psychoanalysis. It focuses on solutions and not the root cause of the problem; which is one of the main reasons for its short term treatment expectancy. CBT suggests identifying the incorrect thinking or cognitive distortions before working on correcting them. You correct the thought pattern you correct the behavior.
To get the most out of this form of therapy you do need to be willing to adopt the corrective thought processes into your daily living. Change is hard, especially when trying to change a habit or break a cycle. This type of therapy seeks to help you to see the incorrect thought process that brought you to this place and teach you how to correct them. You then have to take it upon yourself to take what you’ve learned in therapy and incorporate it into your daily life. Then and only then will you see the change that brought you to therapy in the first place.
Now for some common buzz words related to this modality, their meaning, and how they fit into the whole. This modality is largely based on the belief that every person has certain negative automatic thoughts either about themselves or the world around them. These thoughts tend to have no basis in reality, but to your brain are taken as scripture. It is these thoughts that CBT attempts to correct to change your experience of the world around you. By recognizing these thoughts for what they are, you can begin to choose to see them objectively; your minds way to keep you in your designated safety zone. You recognize these thoughts and then make the conscious choice toward a more healthy thought pattern. Once that happens your behavior will change as well.
There are several types of thinking errors that can occur, here are just a few. Some errors occur as a result of emotional reasoning or thoughts based on emotions. These thoughts are not based on facts and can lead to irrational thinking. It is important to learn the difference between emotions and thoughts and to develop both distress tolerance skills as well as emotional regulation skills to prevent this type of cognitive distortion. Another is cognitive bias or focusing on the negatives and then from that view point worry about the future. Through a negative filter the future can appear bleak and hopeless. This is not based on reality and can lead to symptoms of depression or depressive symptoms. Another distortion similar to this is the minimizing the positive or disqualifying, which is exactly what it sounds like. An important question to ask yourself if you are guilty of this is: would you minimize this if it was happening to your best friend? Dare to hold yourself to the same standards as you hold others. More often than not we are harder on ourselves than others.
Another cognitive distortion is availability heuristic or what is the most prominent in your mind. A common example of this one is to use the same metaphor, plane crashes. In the grand scheme of things the number of plane crashes versus the number of successful plane flights is very minimal but the fact that we only hear about the crashes means the crashes are most prominent in our mind. Some additional cognitive distortions are the all or nothing thinking, which is exactly what it sounds like, there’s not gray area, it’s either all black or all white. Another is the fallacy of fairness or the belief in a just world. This distortion follows that nothing bad can happen to a good person. Try and list 4 people you know who you categorize as “good people” who have had bad things happen to them.
CBT has been helpful in a wide range of diagnoses and here are only a few to name: Anxiety, Phobias, Depression, Addictions, Eating disorders, Panic attacks, Anger. The goals in this form of therapy are very objective and are easily measured. If you’re more comfortable with structure and a focused approach then this approach is for you. But you have to be ready to analyze both your thoughts and emotions, learn the different between the two and learn just how much your emotions actually control the way you think or even see the world. You have to be ready to put in the necessary work to see the change you are seeking. The progress in therapy depends on you, your goals, and the amount of effort you put into it.