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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Written by: Editorial Staff.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that thoughts, rather than external influences, dictate our emotions and behavior. CBT therapists believe that individuals can alter the way they think and experience less psychological distress. The psychological treatment method known as cognitive therapy targets the ideas, beliefs and thoughts circulating in individuals’ minds that impact their behavior and feelings.

This behavior therapy assists patients in modifying negative, faulty or irrational thought patterns and behavior that have been programmed through years of reinforcement. This is achieved by the therapist educating the patient and placing the emphasis on positive experiences.

The Objective of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The objective of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach patients how to unlearn undesirable behaviors, abandon depression-prone thinking and adopt different and more flexible reactions. During treatment, patients are taught specific techniques on how to think and act in ways conducive to achieving their goals.

Cognitive therapy patients are assigned homework and encouraged to practice the new behavioral and cognitive techniques they learned while in session. The duration for this form of therapy is usually 3-9 months, with an average of 16 sessions per client. While cognitive behavioral therapy is generally short-term, unlike other therapeutic approaches such as psychoanalysis, it produces quick and long-lasting results and positive changes. The relapse rate for cognitive therapy patients is also low.

Two Types of Therapy

Two types of psychotherapy are utilized- behavior therapy and cognitive therapy. Behavior therapy is concerned with changing and overcoming undesirable behaviors. Patients learn how to calm their body and mind in order to achieve clarity, improved decision-making and contentment.

Cognitive therapy, on the other hand, shows patients how distorted perceptions or illogical thinking trigger dysfunctions and provides them with the skills to recognize these problematic thought patterns responsible for psychological distress. Through cognitive therapy, patients learn to discard unrealistic or pessimistic thoughts, modify unproductive behavior and reshape thinking about their lives. Some of the most commonly-employed techniques include reinforcement, role-playing, and modeling.

How CBT Helps

In cognitive behavior therapy, patients are taught to test whether their assumptions and thoughts have any validity in reality. They also learn coping strategies and acquire enhanced skills of analysis, introspection and awareness. Among the various approaches to cognitive behavior therapy are dialectic behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, rational living therapy, rational behavior therapy and rational emotive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is extremely effective in treating specific conditions. It has been successful in treating an extensive range of psychological disorders and problems.

Treatable Disorders Include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Hypochondria
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Mood disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Drug and alcohol addiction

The Success of CBT

Through cognitive behavioral therapy, patients suffering from depression learn coping skills to resist thoughts of pessimism, inadequacy, and failure. According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University, CBT patients diagnosed with mild to severe depression fared significantly better than those placed on a placebo or on medication.

The study found that patients healed and remained well for extended periods because they acquired the necessary tools to cope with depression. The empirical data also showed that individuals struggling with numerous outbreaks of depression, as well as patients with an anxiety disorder or social phobias benefited greatly from cognitive behavioral therapy. Success rates for individuals who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy to treat an anxiety disorder are nearly 75%.