CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is one of the most widely-used forms of treatment in the world of psychotherapy. While every patient is unique in their individual needs and their reception to treatment, the idea behind CBT is applicable in a vast array of cases.
What is CBT?
This particular method of therapy was created based on the link between a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Psychologists believe that these three elements work in a circular pattern, each of which can be either the cause or the effect of various triggers.
The ideology behind this form of treatment is all about how to lessen the impact of stressors by aiding patients in creating thoughts and behaviors to combat them. For some patients, these sessions can last six to 12 weeks, while for others, it’s a continuous process.
Ultimately, a cognitive behavioral therapist enters each session with the goal of altering the thought patterns and consequential behaviors that cause unhealthy symptoms in their patient.
How does CBT work?
CBT works differently for every patient in terms of duration. The average length of sessions for cognitive behavioral therapy is roughly between an hour to an hour and a half.
This difference in effectiveness is based on the reasoning behind the therapy. For patients with short-term difficulties like situation-based anxiety or insomnia, six to 12 weeks of CBT can be enough to resolve the problem. For others with extensive distress, recurring appointments may be necessary.
As the name states, cognitive behavioral therapy is rooted in the connection between thoughts and behaviors. The process of CBT begins with identifying a patient’s unhealthy thoughts and emotions.
Once these have been established, a plan is set between the therapist and patient to address these initial thoughts or emotions and the ways in which to engage or disengage with them. Over time, the goal is for the patient to recognize an unhealthy thought or emotion and work through it before it has the chance to result in unhealthy behaviors.
What is CBT used for?
There are a variety of reasons why a therapist would choose CBT for their patients. Most commonly treated with CBD are anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, and PTSD.
With each of these disorders, the first step is identifying the unhealthy behavior. For example, patients who live with an anxiety disorder may feel a sense of fear and thoughts of failure when faced with something unfamiliar.
Patients are often encouraged to document these thoughts and emotions in a journal to review with their therapist. Moving forward, the patient is encouraged to take their thoughts and rethink them in a more logical way, separate from the circumstances.
Instead of thinking, “I can’t attend this event, my anxiety is unmanageable”, patients are encouraged to change their thoughts to, “It’s normal to fear an unknown place, but it doesn’t have to be the reason I don’t attend. I’ve gone to new places in the past successfully, I just have to take the first step. I can always leave if I feel unsafe or uneasy”.
Many therapists also practice CBT in their group therapy sessions. In these groups, patients are able to bring forward a common trigger in their lives and act them out with others. In playing the scenarios out, the therapist can provide the patient with multiple variations of the scenario with various outcomes. This provides patients with the ability to think through their situations and come up with a plan to execute them in the healthiest way possible.
While every patient is unique, and their individual needs are evaluated from the first appointment, it’s not uncommon for a therapist to suggest a treatment with CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy is growing more popular as a way to help patients evaluate their thoughts and emotions in order to produce healthy behaviors.