What is cognitive behavioral therapy and how does it work?






CBT aims to uncover unhelpful or problematic ways of thinking in order to change unwanted or unhealthy behaviors.

There’s no one-size-fits-all fix to treating insomnia, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, eating disorders, and other psychological problems. But there does seem to be a common starting place most psychologists and other therapists rely on: cognitive behavioral therapy (or “CBT” as it’s commonly referred to).

CBT falls under the broader category of psychotherapy. (Psychotherapies differ from other types of therapy, such as medications, in that they involve a psychologist or other trained professional working with an individual or group to identify a problem and develop solutions. Usually that process involves a lot of talking and thinking.)

The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes CBT as one of the most effective forms of psychological therapy and psychiatric medications. And based on the evidence proving it works when it comes to managing anxiety disorders, bulimia, insomnia, personality disorders, stress management, and more, CBT is considered the gold-standard of psychotherapies in the field.

Exactly how CBT is delivered varies from one individual to another, based on each person’s needs, as well as other problems he or she may be dealing with — such as age, and the environment that person lives in. The common thread underpinning all CBT, however, is the goal of changing unhelpful or problematic ways of thinking in order to change unwanted or unhealthy behaviors.

“It’s trying to help you change your thoughts, your behaviors, and your feelings to give you better strategies to cope in day-to-day living and better overall health,” explains Thomas H. Ollendick, PhD, University Distinguished Professor and Director of the Child Study Center in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. (His research and clinical work primarily focuses on children and adolescents, but he’s worked with adults, too.)

Our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors all exist in a very interrelated ménage à trois. One affects the other affects the other affects the other, and so on, in an endless loop, Ollendick says. The theory behind CBT is that by reframing your thinking, you learn how to reframe behaviors and emotions, too. It addresses all three of those components.

CBT is direct and problem-solving in its approach of coming up with the ways to handle what’s wrong that you can use your everyday life, Ollendick explains. Other forms of psychotherapy take a less direct approach, he says. Psychoanalysis, for example, aims to promote better functioning more indirectly by encouraging emotional awareness and personality change.

“[With CBT] you’re learning and developing coping strategies — and ways to control and manage your thinking and emotions,” Ollendick says.


The CBT formula (identify the issue, reframe your thinking, develop a way to cope, face the trigger and practice) can help people with a seemingly large range of problems — from insomnia to depression to PTSD to gambling problems to opioid addiction to biopolar disorders and much more — because they all have something pretty basic in common.

It’s a simplistic explanation, but all of these issues involve thinking, feeling and behaving, Ollendick says. And because CBT addresses thinking, feeling and behaving, the approach can help with all of these issues, he says. “It’s an intervention that can [he stresses, CAN] potentially address that reverberation within the dynamic system.”

It’s important to note that for some people, CBT alone can help an individual manage a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, addiction, insomnia, schizophrenia or PTSD. But others are best treated with a combination of CBT and medication, or CBT and another therapy, Ollendick says.


If CBT sounds like something that might help with something you’re dealing with, there are a few things you should know about how and where to find it:

1. Double check that your provider can and will deliver CBT.

Because it’s so effective for helping with so many problems, more and more mental health providers are trained in how to deliver the therapy to patients (social workers, counselors and other therapists can be trained in CBT, too, in addition to psychiatrists) — but not all of them, Giller says.

If you want to try CBT, ask your mental health care provider if he or she is trained in delivering it. (You can also check the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies’ directory to search for a provider.) “It’s important to know if that’s what you want that you’re actually going to get that,” Giller says. “It’s often on the consumer to find out.”

2. Ask what to expect.

CBT is personalized for every individual. CBT for insomnia will look very different from CBT for a phobia of spiders. In some cases, CBT may require sessions that take place out of the office. CBT in general is a quicker approach compared with other therapies. But it’s up to the provider in terms of delivery.

Some CBT might span a dozen sessions, while some newer approaches that can be delivered in a single session have been found to be just as effective as longer ones, Ollendick says. Ask ahead of time what you’re signing up for.

Link Original:https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/what-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-how-does-it-work-ncna975811

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