Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The word cognitive in the title of this type of therapy refers to the mental activity, such as thoughts and beliefs, that then produce feelings, and in turn, lead one to make certain choices. When a person participates in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, he or she will be asked to identify certain harmful or negative thoughts in order to uncover the feelings and behaviors associated with it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often used to treat a number of different psychological illnesses including Mood Disorders (such as Depression or Bipolar Disorder), Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Substance Abuse Disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Goal-Oriented
This form of therapy is goal-oriented in the sense that it has a specific focus and particular goals in mind. The goal of this therapy is to change thought patterns and behaviors that might lead to a relief from symptoms associated with the illness a person struggles with. Also, because of this focus, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is different than talk therapy, which tends to be less directive. Instead of a person discussing what’s on their mind or the struggles they faced during the week, therapy will focus on identifying thoughts and associated feelings and behaviors.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy includes a discussion of progress, goals for therapy, and a specific treatment plan that addresses a person’s needs and illness. It’s very common for therapists trained in this modality to provide homework or exercises outside of therapy, such as writing down negative thoughts as well as the feelings that one experienced as a result.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tends to have the following focus:
- identifying thoughts and associated feelings and behaviors
- replacing negative or harmful thoughts with more positive ones
- changing behaviors that might have previously caused a person struggle
- identifying and changing thoughts associated with symptoms a person is experiencing
- adding positive activities to one’s life
- restructuring negative and/or false thought patterns
It’s common for negative beliefs about oneself to either cause or trigger negative behaviors and feelings. This premise is the underlying principle of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. For instance, a person who is struggling with an Eating Disorder almost always suffers from low self-worth and negative self-beliefs, which leads to their destructive behaviors. Therefore, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to change the underlying negative beliefs and thoughts about oneself. It is important to point out that often these negative beliefs and thoughts remain unconscious to the person suffering from them. The advantage of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the conscious identification of these thoughts and beliefs so that they might be changed and replaced.
Research on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Research on the treatment effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy revealed that those participating received relief of their symptoms. Many of those who include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy into their treatment plan find that they become more aware of their thoughts and have a greater ability to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Because of this research and consistent studies showing the effectiveness of this method, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is known as an evidence-based treatment method. In fact, this form of therapy has been shown to be as effective as medication treatment, for both Anxiety and Depression. Because this form of therapy is short-term, intensive, and goal-oriented, it is often included short-term residential treatment plans, or short-term programs that address psychological illness.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a psychological illness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be able to help.