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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy methods and if it’s the appropriate treatment option for you.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of evidence-based psychotherapy that combines elements of cognitive and behavioral therapies to help people learn how to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. The use of CBT can assist individuals dealing with a variety of cognitive behavioral disorders.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

The basis of cognitive behavioral theory works by helping individuals gain an understanding of the problem. This is done by asking a series of questions to help identify maladaptive core beliefs. These questions are called Socratic questions, a method used in cognitive behavioral therapy to help reveal deeply held beliefs and values that are likely framing and supporting how we think and feel. This is done by asking focused and open-ended questions.1

By asking focused and open-ended questions, the cognitive behavioral therapist helps the client to become aware of the beliefs and values that may be perpetuating difficulties. Our core beliefs influence how we think and act. Therefore, the goal of cognitive-based therapy is to identify maladaptive core beliefs. By doing so, cognitive therapists can help clients recognize their problematic thoughts and behaviors and work towards making changes. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a collaborative treatment that encourages clients to work to challenge negative thoughts in order to adjust how they think, feel, and behave.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Types

Cognitive behavioral treatment works to address thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This can be done by utilizing specific types of therapeutic approaches that involve cognitive behavioral therapy. Several types of CBT approaches to treatment are explored in more detail below.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a form of behavioral therapy aimed at helping individuals confront their fears and anxieties head-on. Exposure therapy is done by addressing the thoughts and behaviors surrounding the specific anxiety or fear, teaching relaxation techniques to help combat the anxiety, and exposing the individual to their fear in a safe and supportive environment.  

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of cognitive therapy that focuses on helping individuals with extreme emotional dysregulation learn awareness, acceptance, emotion regulation, and how to better tolerate distress.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT stems from traditional behavioral therapy that helps teach individuals how to stop avoiding, struggling with, or denying their difficult emotions and experiences and instead learn to accept that these experiences may be appropriate responses to situations. By accepting their experiences, individuals can work toward committing to making changes to their behaviors to live more fulfilling lives.2

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy combines cognitive therapy, meditation, and mindfulness to support individuals in learning to more consciously pay attention to their thoughts and feelings without judgment. This is done by using techniques such as meditation, body scanning, yoga, and mindfulness.3

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

REBT is another type of cognitive behavioral therapy that emphasizes the present and believes that focusing on specific events is what leads to emotional upset. REBT believes that unhelpful thoughts create unhealthy emotions and self-defeating behaviors.4

What Conditions Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Treat?

Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can be used to address a variety of cognitive behavioral disorders or mental health concerns. The cognitive-behavioral model was first created to treat depression; however, cognitive behavioral strategies have since been utilized to help treat many other conditions.

Eating Disorders

Using cognitive behavioral treatment for eating disorders usually involves cognitive restructuring around the concepts of food and body image. Typically, the cognitive behavioral strategies include identifying and challenging dietary rules, completing food logs, replacing the “all-or-nothing” thinking patterns, developing healthy behavior patterns, and exposure to “fear foods.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Cognitive behavioral intervention for PTSD involves using the behavioral therapy techniques of exposure therapy, teaching procedures for managing anxiety, and cognitive therapy by challenging negative thoughts and emotions.

Anxiety Disorders, Including Panic Disorder and Phobia

A majority of cognitive behavioral interventions for use with anxiety disorders include exposure therapy, especially in working with phobias. This is also done by helping individuals break down the negative thought patterns that are causing the anxiety, making the problems more manageable, and challenging negative thought patterns. The cognitive-behavioral approach for anxiety disorders also includes the teaching and practicing of relaxation techniques.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for OCD involve using exposure and response prevention techniques This means that the cognitive behavioral therapist gradually introduces the object or situation that triggers the obsessions and compulsions to the individual, helps identify the emotions surrounding the trigger, and practices relaxation techniques until the individual learns to cope with the discomfort and anxiety.

Schizophrenia

The cognitive behavioral theory for schizophrenia is often combined with medication for the best treatment outcome. Cognitive behavioral strategies used for schizophrenia involve helping individuals identify delusions and cope with and implement acceptable responses. CBT can also help individuals identify the triggers of psychotic episodes.5

Bipolar Disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used for the treatment of bipolar disorder by helping an individual become more aware of their mood, physical sensations, and indicators of manic episodes.

Substance Misuse

Cognitive behavioral interventions can help treat substance misuse by identifying problematic behaviors and thoughts around substance use while also teaching more constructive behaviors and coping skills.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to help identify negative thought patterns that contribute to negative emotions and maladaptive behaviors. In doing so, there are several cognitive behavioral strategies that are utilized. The cognitive behavioral therapy steps include: identifying negative thoughts, practicing new skills, goal setting, problem-solving, and self-monitoring.

These techniques will be detailed below:

  • Identifying negative thoughts: Learning to identify negative thoughts can help individuals learn how these thoughts may be negatively impacting their feelings and behaviors.
  • Practicing new skills: One of the major goals of cognitive behavioral therapy is for the individual to gain more adaptive skills. The cognitive behavioral therapist helps teach and implement new coping skills that can be utilized when dealing with triggering situations.
  • Goal-setting: Goal-setting is an important aspect in helping individuals take steps to improve their mental health by identifying areas of importance and the steps needed to achieve these goals.
  • Problem-solving: Being able to identify and solve problems can help to reduce the negative impact of stress.
  • Self-monitoring: Self-monitoring involves keeping track of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and habits. This is often done in the form of a diary or journaling. By keeping track of and sharing these experiences with their cognitive behavioral therapist, individuals can learn about their own patterns and provide information for the therapist to help guide treatment.

How Long Will I Need Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

The cognitive behavioral therapy process is a short-term treatment plan that typically varies anywhere from five to twenty sessions. Therapy sessions are traditionally conducted once per week and are between thirty to sixty minutes in length.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most well-studied and empirically supported forms of mental health treatment. In many studies, it has been shown to be an effective treatment method for a wide variety of mental health conditions. According to the American Psychological Association, “In many studies, CBT has been demonstrated to be as effective as, or more effective than, other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.”6

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There are a vast amount of benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy. Some of the advantages of cognitive behavioral therapy include providing support to those suffering from mental health conditions, increasing communication skills, learning and improving coping skills, raising self-esteem, creating positive thoughts by challenging negative ones, and learning to manage anger. By implementing cognitive restructuring, individuals also learn how to prevent relapse.

Other advantages of cognitive therapy include:

  • Various types of cognitive behavioral therapy can be implemented for a wide variety of disorders or conditions.
  • Cognitive behavioral intervention can be effective whether in-person or online.
  • Cognitive behavioral treatment is more often cost-effective than other forms of treatment.
  • Cognitive behavioral methods are goal-oriented and can be utilized outside of the therapy sessions.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy counseling is collaborative and involves the support of a trained cognitive therapist.
  • Cognitive behavioral strategies can be used in conjunction with psychotropic medication.

Getting the most out of CBT

To get the most out of CBT, it is important to approach therapy as a partnership with the cognitive therapist, be open and honest, stick to the treatment plan, adjust expectations to avoid expecting instant results, and complete assigned homework between sessions. 

Overall, it is important to communicate with your therapist if you feel the therapy isn’t helping and discuss the pros and cons of cognitive behavioral therapy. 

How to Get Started With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you are interested in cognitive behavioral therapy and believe you might benefit from the treatment, make sure you consider taking the following steps:7

  • Consult with your physician to discuss cognitive behavioral therapy referrals.
  • Contact your health insurance company to determine whether cognitive-based therapy is covered and how many sessions would be provided.
  • Consider your personal preferences, including whether you would prefer online or in-person therapy and the type of cognitive behavioral therapy that might be best for you.
  • Expect your initial experience to be similar to a doctor’s appointment, as cognitive behavioral psychology uses intake forms in order to get the most informed understanding of your needs.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Also, come prepared with your own questions on the cognitive behavioral therapy methods and the role of the CBT therapist.
cognitive behavioral therapy

Get Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Alta Centers

If you or someone you know is suffering from a cognitive behavioral disorder and might benefit from receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, Alta Centers might be the right treatment facility for you. The professional team at Alta Centers provides high-quality, individualized service to meet your specific needs. To find out more information regarding cognitive behavioral therapy, contact Alta Centers at 888-202-2583 today.