Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Popular Approach to Improving Mental Health and Well-Being
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It is no surprise that there are connections between how we feel and how we behave. However, understanding this process can become overwhelming or even draining. When speaking with a therapist, they may take the time to identify, challenge, and later make efforts to adjust these emotions and behaviors that have become difficult to endure. In the world of therapeutic routines, there are countless ways that this can be done, depending on the patient’s needs. One of the most popular methods used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)!
CBT is often recommended as individuals and groups dealing with mental illness or emotional distress. It was formed during the 1960s by American Psychiatrist, Aaron Beck, and has been continuously backed by evidence deriving from clinical expertise and scientific research. Characterized by its solution-focused approach, CBT uses dialogue between a therapist and their client to help treat their negative outlooks of the world along with imbalances in their external locus of control.
How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work?
Breaking down its components, CBT’s method is focused on examining the relationships between one’s feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. The CBT method makes it urgent that the client possess a substantial amount of awareness of their Mental Filtering first before continuing any interventions. This is described as the tendency to fixate on the negative aspects of a situation while simultaneously struggling to see any positives.
It is after this acknowledgment that CBT’s effectiveness starts as the therapist and client collaborate to challenge, explore, and alter negative thought processes into more constructive ones along with working on behaviors in response to triggers.
As a result, heavier thoughts/emotions are transformed into more positive ones by bringing logic into the client’s belief system. This specific treatment method believes that negative thoughts merge with heavier emotions, creating belief systems rooted in doubt that can subsequently depress and shut down one’s ability to practice resilience. In response, the therapist steps in, introducing “homework” which is described by specific plans of action that challenge the client to examine their negative thoughts the moment they arise. This mainly takes place outside of the session which also gives the client the chance to experience and tend to their triggers.
By being guided by the therapist to become more aware of one’s negative thinking patterns, addressing fears, positive reinforcement, and self-regulation is further promoted in the client. As sessions are combined with “therapy homework”, legacies of what the therapist and client are working through together are formed.
What are the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Being that CBT’s treatment has been proven to help just as effectively as medication, it is evident that its benefits are significant. Here are some of its strengths:
- CBT can successfully treat a range of mental conditions and/or distress. CBT’s original purpose was to combat symptoms of depression. However, it is now used to treat other mental disorders such as Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Schizophrenia. Its flexibility to treat several types of conditions further enhances its influence.
- It helps patients feel less isolated. When experiencing the blow of mental distress, it’s inevitable to feel alone in what you’re dealing with. CBT helps to soften that by granting optimism to the patient as they embark on their mental health journey. Dooming thoughts can often feel that they can’t be escaped. But, with the help of CBT, there is hope that these thoughts are smaller than we realize and subsequently begin to give them less power.
- It builds confidence in one’s capabilities. While any therapeutic intervention can enhance self-esteem, it is CBT’s assistance that disrupts the cycle of negative thoughts followed by destructive behaviors and belief systems. More constructive thoughts are valuable to building more confidence in oneself.
- It encourages a sense of relaxation/self-regulation. Outside of challenging and transforming destructive thoughts and emotions, CBT encourages this to be reflected in one’s actions as well. When there is a higher sense of awareness of triggers, more effective actions are prioritized to tend to them which results in less distress in the mind and body.
- It encourages more logical reasoning. CBT encourages growth from destructive to constructive thought processes. Whether a patient is working on negative thinking following a singular event or multiple, the CBT method helps to be applied to multiple components of life. The threshold to be able to reflect on ways of thinking in real-time increases for the better.
What are the shortcomings of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
With each method of therapeutic approach, comes limitations that are important to consider when discovering what technique resonates. Here are some limitations:
- CBT can become temporary relief for long-term conditions. As previously stated, CBT therapy was initially created to treat symptoms of depression. Ironically, it is common for depression to be a long-term condition with a high probability of relapse. Being that the long-term effects of CBT haven’t been studied, the validity of this approach can be seen as more of a temporary fix where more methods of treatment may be needed.
- CBT can wrongly identify negative thoughts as irrational. Sometimes the distinctions between dysfunctional self-concepts and irrational thoughts about oneself can be blurred. This can be insensitive in particular cases where the patient has endured bouts of trauma where irrational thoughts were formed. Cognitive reconstruction can shift to change reality but poses the risks of denying the existence of the root causes. Because CBT can tend to focus on current problems, it is not able to see how the patient’s life experiences can make connections to their negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and belief systems.
- CBT can help with most, but not all mental complications. Other treatments such as interpersonal therapy and medication have been proven to have better performance than CBT treatment by the National Institute of Mental Health Study of Depression. CBT has had an impressive performance on its own; however, it should be merged with other approaches to fit the client’s specific needs. It is liable to have more criticisms when being practiced on its own.
- CBT can sometimes try to fix what needs to be embraced. Another way CBT can be insensitive is how sometimes socially unwanted traits such as shyness, introversion, or high sensitivity can be perceived in a negative light. It can be seen as a threat to a “flawless” image instead of what makes the patient their unique self. This can lead to a belief system that the patient needs to be fixed, leading to the assumption that there is something inherently wrong with them. This is a common belief system that patients commonly face before seeing a therapist.
How do I know if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for me?
The best way of figuring out if CBT works for you depends on your individual experiences and the symptoms you are enduring. Here are some tips that will give you guidance on your therapeutic journey:
As previously mentioned, CBT Therapy alone can have a short-term method of treatment. Taking the time to evaluate and discuss the time and intensity your treatment may require is important in discovering if CBT Therapy works for you.
Getting to see if your therapist is a good match for you is always a great start! While expertise and good word-of-mouth are important, learning your potential therapist’s accreditations, preferred techniques, and experience with the potential issues you are facing are also helpful in discerning if they are a good fit.
Your threshold of intervention can be triggering. Breaking negative patterns of thinking can be more than difficult and some sessions will be heavier than others. How this may show up is just part of the process. Understand that you are doing the necessary work. It is possible within these triggers to feel that your therapist may not understand you. Allowing yourself to feel while also being transparent with your therapist during moments such as these is important and even a deeper peek into your psyche.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a suitable place to start when learning to discover yourself and reflect on how one navigates through life. It opens the opportunity to not only receive guidance from a licensed professional but spend time with oneself, engaging in effective introspection. However, personalized treatment does not have to start and end at CBT. Each person’s symptoms and journeys are different, so it is common for methods of treatment to vary as well. Each step in one’s mental health journey deserves to be embraced!
Exploring the world of therapy in its complexities can be a lot to take in. However, it doesn’t have to be hard. Each method of current treatment has its areas of benefits and shortcomings therefore, doing your research will be the best tool for discernment.
Hub, P. (2019, April 16). What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6aAQgXauQw&feature=youtu.be
Hub, P. (2020, January 28). How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdyOwZ4_RnI&feature=youtu.be
Inherent Limitations of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). (2021, March 1). Higher Logic, LLC. https://community.counseling.org/blogs/david-metzner1/2021/03/01/limitations-of-cbt
Psychologists, M. (2022, August 18). What are the Benefits of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)? MyLife Psychologists. https://mylifepsychologists.com.au/what-are-the-benefits-of-cognitive-behaviour-therapy-cbt/
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