Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
What is CBT?
CBT is a form of therapy that helps clients train their brains to handle negative or inaccurate thinking in more effective ways. Under the guidance of a mental health professional, you can learn to identify and correct destructive patterns of thinking.
CBT differs from other talk-based therapies in a couple of respects:
- It is conducted over a limited number of sessions. There is no magic number – how many sessions you attend depends on your individual circumstances.
- In contrast to other talk therapies that are free-flowing in nature, CBT is structured to accomplish specific goals.
Like most talk-based therapies, CBT can uncover some painful memories and emotions. You may feel varying degrees of anger, anxiety and mental turmoil, but as you work through these, you will build coping skills and resilience that will last a lifetime. The benefit of CBT is that it provides you with a safe place to go through a process that might be too difficult for you to undergo alone.
How does it work?
CBT follows a structured approach that includes the following general steps:
- Identification of problem areas. Maybe you have experienced a major life event such as separation, death of a loved one or a move to a new location. Or perhaps you have a problem with anxiety prior to exams or stage performances. Regardless of your circumstances, the first step CBT is to pinpoint the areas of your life that are causing problems.
- Awareness of thoughts and emotions about the problem areas. Having identified the issues that you are working on, your therapist will encourage you to describe how you think and feel about them. How does the issue make you feel about yourself and other people? Does it create emotional distress? What words do you use in your self-talk about a particular situation?
- Identification of inaccurate or negative thinking. Sometimes our perceptions about ourselves and the circumstances we are in can be distorted. When that happens, we fall into patterns of thinking that are harmful to us. During this step of CBT, your therapist will encourage you to pay attention to how you think and feel in different situations.
- Alter inaccurate or negative thinking. With your therapist’s help, you will learn how to distinguish factual perceptions from inaccurate ones. You will learn how to change course as soon as your mind starts to fall into a loop of negative thinking. This is a challenging step, since it may involve changing a lifetime way of thinking, but with practice, it will be come easier.
Who can benefit?
CBT can be an effective treatment method for people with mental illnesses, and those who are going through stressful life events. The benefits of CBT include the following:
- It can help manage the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD
- It can help couples and families manage their relationships better
- It can help people who have PTSD as a result of trauma
- It can help those who have lost a loved one
- It can help people with medical illnesses or chronic pain
- It can help people who have situation-based symptoms, such as stage fright or pre-exam nerves
- It can be an effective tool for overcoming phobias
- It is an integral part of many addiction rehab programs