When is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Beneficial?
If you’re looking for a local therapist, chances are good that you’ve probably already heard mention of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). But is it right for you? CBT is based on the idea that our feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and behaviors are all interwoven. Let’s explore what cognitive behavioral therapy is in more depth, and who it can help.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based approach to talk therapy that can help you become more conscious of the automatic thought patterns that are holding you back, or leading to unwanted behaviors in your life.
One of the main benefits of CBT is that it guides you to recognize and gain a better understanding of your own thought process by breaking it down into smaller parts. This reevaluation allows you to adjust the ways in which you cope with difficult situations, and can also support you in choosing more constructive behaviors.
A CBT therapist will primarily focus on what is currently taking place in your life rather than exploring the past. However, a good CBT therapist is always aware of how the past informs the present. Problem-solving skills are used to handle challenging situations, and the main emphasis is on moving forward and learning new techniques in order to implement real and lasting change. This partnership with your therapist can help you face your fears instead of avoiding them, gain a greater sense of self-confidence, and a deeper understanding of what motivates your everyday choices.
Backed By Science
CBT is unique in that there is a depth of scientific evidence to demonstrate that this form of talk therapy can improve the quality of someone’s life and reduce their suffering. Perhaps surprisingly, this isn’t the case for all forms of psychological treatment. Here is a link to one study on the efficacy of this popular therapeutic approach, dated 2012.
The Core Principles of CBT
It’s important to note that there are a core set of principles that govern the methods used in cognitive behavioral therapy. In general, these include:
- Psychological problems are often based on automatic or negative thought patterns that aren’t beneficial.
- Similarly, psychological problems are due, at least in part, to patterns of learned behavior that are damaging in some way, or unhelpful.
- It’s possible to learn effective ways to cope with psychological problems, leading to more fulfilling life experiences.
What Do Sessions Look Like?
Once you begin cognitive behavioral therapy, your course of treatment will typically last somewhere between five to twenty sessions, depending on your needs. You will most likely meet with your therapist on a weekly basis, but every other week is common as well, and each individual session lasts from thirty minutes to an hour depending on the specific issue being treated. While it may not seem like much time, remember that CBT is an action-oriented approach to talk therapy. This means that your therapist will work with you during these sessions to closely examine your problems as separate parts. For example, what seems like an overwhelming issue can actually be broken down into your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and corresponding behaviors. When you begin to look at things in this way, it’s easier to analyze where change needs to take place.
Your CBT therapist will also guide you through exercises and ask that you apply these new skills in your daily life. You can then discuss the outcome of these “homework assignments” in your next session.
Advantages of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
While some psychologists believe that CBT is overly focused on the present, there are many undeniable advantages to cognitive behavioral therapy. In fact, there are instances when CBT is just as effective as medication for the treatment of certain mental health concerns. It may also be beneficial when medication has not proved to be an effective treatment on its own. All in all, the structured nature of CBT makes it a no-nonsense, practical approach that focuses on strategies for daily life. Similarly, it can usually be completed in a shorter span of time than other talk therapies that may have a vague or indefinite time frame.
The Potential Downside of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Unfortunately, CBT may not be appropriate for everyone. A potential disadvantage is that cognitive behavioral therapy requires you to fully commit to the process—both in and out of session. A therapist can guide you, but they can’t do the work for you. Implementing these new skills in your daily life takes extra time and focus. I often say that Lebron James, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant didn’t become great basketball players by going to practice once a week. They had to put in the work between sessions. Therapy is the same way. In order to really see change, it requires practice between sessions.
Who Can CBT Help?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used in the treatment of anxiety and depression, but it is also useful in treating a broader range of mental health conditions, as well as managing chronic pain or insomnia.
CBT may not be the best treatment approach for every individual, but here are some common issues that cognitive behavioral therapy often helps with, such as:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders, like bulimia or anorexia
- Bipolar disorder
- Sleep issues
- Changing unhealthy behaviors or coping mechanisms
Chronic Health Conditions
CBT can also be beneficial in learning to better manage the symptoms of long-term health conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Of course, it can’t cure these symptoms, but it can help individuals to cope with their medical condition.
Contact Us Today
The key takeaway is CBT is a practical, action-oriented therapy that can help rescript your usual mental narrative. Rather than focusing on issues from your long-ago past, the overarching goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to gain a greater awareness of the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
At COPE Psychological Center, our mission is to provide holistic mental health care that delivers evidence-based treatments. Regardless of the reason you’ve decided to try therapy, we’re here to help you gain the tools, insights, and skills necessary to live the life you want. Contact us today by calling 310-453-8788, or use the simple contact form below to schedule an appointment.