Within the wider discipline of psychotherapy there are several different modalities for treatment. Each of these represents an option to the patient, based on what mental health condition he may be suffering from, what his therapist's skills are, and his personal preference. Out of the many available choices, many people are opting for CBT counselling.
The abbreviation stands for cognitive behavioural therapy. This is something of a mouthful, but in practice, CBT counselling is a form of talk therapy based on the principle that what you think, what you feel, and how you cope with the world should be seen as an interconnected system rather than as separate entities.
Any mental activity, from playing the violin to thinking about kittens, causes the physical growth of microscopic structures in the brain related to that action. This is one reason why practice makes us better at something. Taking this reasoning just a little further, when we are experiencing a certain emotion or re-running a certain track of thought, we are essentially practicing feeling that way, or thinking those thoughts. One of the main goals of CBT counselling is to derail that train if it consistently leads to negative feelings or harmful actions.
If your knowledge of psychotherapy has mainly been provided by television, you may be under the impression that all talk therapy revolves around exploring the root causes of problems in order to resolve issues by making peace with the past. While this is certainly a valid and worthwhile approach to counselling, CBT's focus is almost completely on the present and future - changing the behaviour and feelings you have today. Perhaps because of this, a course of CBT therapy is often much shorter than is the case with other therapeutic modalities.
If your problems seem to be too vast to deal with all at once, a CBT counselor will tend to show you ways in which you can break them down into smaller, more manageable parts. For instance, if you are struggling with alcohol addiction, he might ask how you feel before and during drinking, what situations lead up to such feelings, and what kind of things you're thinking about during this time. The emphasis is always on finding practical, applicable solutions to present-day problems rather than only gaining self-knowledge. Self-knowledge or self-awareness is important, however, as recognizing what patterns we have developed is an important step in the process. It's just that it's not always necessary to dive far back in our past to come up with current day strategies.
Although many people prefer other forms of counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be very effective for those who want to change habits, treat severe conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as those simply striving for better mental health. It's a popular therapy for those that like concrete techniques and strategies that they can apply in their everyday life. While it is a form of talk therapy, CBT is very collaborative, as client and therapist work together to implement positive change.
A Few CBT Techniques
So how exactly do we go about changing how we think? CBT uses many different techniques to help us alter our negative internal thought patterns. Learning these techniques from a CBT therapist and utilizing them outside of sessions can really help to teach people to recognize thoughts that might be problematic and then to challenge these thoughts.
Cognitive distortions are ways of thinking that lead us to believe that certain thoughts are undeniably true. There are over 15 cognitive distortions, so here are a couple of the most common ones: Black or White Thinking and Shoulds.
Black or White Thinking: This is thinking that everything is black or white, all or nothing. There are no gray areas in black or white thinking. For example, "I failed my test, I will never graduate!" Is this true? Or are you feeling discouraged by one test and on the last test you received an A?
Shoulds: These are the rules we have in place for ourselves and others. And if we break a "rule," we feel guilty. Or if someone else breaks the "rule," we get mad. For example, "I should never yell at my kids." Sure, it's not an ideal way to always respond to your kids, but is it realistic to never get angry? Also, is there a more helpful way to phrase that thought so that I don't get so mad at myself when I do something I "shouldn't" do?
Many people journal already, as a way to keep a record of their lives and get their thoughts down on paper. CBT uses journaling as a way to gather evidence and information. By writing things down regularly, we can constructively track our moods and thoughts, allowing us to challenge the reality of thoughts, moods or actions that may not be or have been productive. Journaling promotes self-awareness which then can lead to positive change.
Cognitive restructuring is only possible once we have determined the thought patterns and resulting behaviors that we'd like to change. It involves learning: what's behind the thought; what led us to think in that way; and how it became so ingrained in our brain. Then, we may be able to: challenge the thought; to examine how it's affecting us, and determine the reality of the situation. Basically, we restructure the thought so that it is healthy and reflects reality.
These examples give insight into the many techniques that make CBT so accessible. It is easy to explain and to use in many different therapeutic formats, and usually generates results quickly.
Being a very structured approach based almost exclusively on verbal communication, CBT is also well suited to online counseling services, whether done over the phone, text chat, or by video conference. This brings effective, professional therapy within reach of many people who could otherwise not afford help, as well as others whose lifestyle or circumstances make regular visits to a psychologist's practice difficult.
* * *
CBT is not suitable for everyone or every mental health issue - any CBT counselor who believes that it isn't the right option for you will quickly refer you to a different kind of therapist. However, regarding lasting benefits which can be obtained relatively quickly, it remains one of the best options to consider.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is CBT in Counselling?
In therapy, CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is based on two therapy types –behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy helps you examine and change your thinking. Behavioral therapy is designed to help you change your behavior. The cognitive-behavioral style of therapy helps you change your behaviors by changing your thoughts.
Cognitive-behavioral methods can be used for various types of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or any mental disorder – eating disorders, for instance.Cognitive-behavioral tools can even be used for a wide range of health problems like sleep problems. Other uses for CBT include for personality disorders, like borderline personality disorder. This behavioral therapy technique can be used to eliminate bad habits that contribute to health conditions, like smoking or overeating.
What is CBT and how does it work?
CBT is a type of talking therapy using cognitive methods for behavioral therapy. If your therapist uses CBT techniques, the therapy sessions startwith setting goals. You make goals for the behaviors and feelings you want to change. Then, your therapist uses the behavioral therapy CBT method to guide you. CBT aims to teach you how to recognize the thoughts behind your feelings and behaviors. Next, you learn to evaluate your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors critically to determine if there are negative thoughts or unrealistic beliefs behind them.Finally, you learn how to change your thoughts, make strategies to behave differently, and practice coping skills.
Can you do CBT on yourself?
Possibly. It's never a good idea to try to use a psychological technique on yourself if you haven't been trained to use it. In fact, the American Psychological Association advises that people with mental problems refrain from jumping on every self-help bandwagon out there. However, they also recommend books on cognitive-behavioral techniques, so you can learn to adjust your thinking as you do in therapy. This psychological association also states that CBT is designed to help you become your own therapistover time.
It's also true that several studies have found self-directed CBT to be very effective, according to NAMI. NAMI is a psychological association for people with mental illness and their families. The caveat is always that you need to learn, understand, and practice cognitive-behavioral techniques before you go it alone. And if you have CBT with a counselor, they will teach you how to use CBT yourself. Then, you can use these techniques to maintain your mental health long after you complete formal therapy.
Which is better CBT or Counselling?
CBT is one type of therapy, and it can be helpful anytime you need to change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. There have been numerous studies on cognitive-behavioral methods, and it has proven extremely effective over and over.
However, another kind of therapy might work better for you. And, your therapist might use a combination of behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, cognitive behavior techniques, and an assortment of other therapies, such as humanistic therapy, holistic therapy, or psychodynamic therapy. Find a therapist and talk to them about what therapies and methods they recommend for your situation. Then, make an informed decision about what you want to try.
What are the 4 types of talk therapies?
The four kinds of talking therapy are:
Can counselors do CBT?
Yes, mental health counselors who are trained in therapy CBT methods can use it successfully. According to the American Psychological Association, a mental health counselor can be anyone who is a certified mental health professional who provides counseling. However, not all mental health counselors are trained in the techniques of CBT. So if you're interested in therapy CBT help, ask your counselor about their training in this therapy method.
What is an example of cognitive behavioral therapy?
Here is one example of cognitive behavioral methods used for mental issues. Ellen has major depression. She doesn't understand why she feels so sad and can't seem to get stop sleeping much of the day. She talks to her health care provider, and he recommends that she see a counselor for therapy. The counselor suggests cognitive therapy, specifically CBT.
During her sessions, her counselor helps her explore her thoughts, and together, they recognize that she thinks she is worthless and unlucky. They evaluate those thoughts by looking at the value she brings to the world and the times she has been as fortunate as most people. They also explore the belief that you need to be lucky to have a good life. Ellen realizes that her thoughts are both negative and unrealistic. She practices noticing when those thoughts come up and replacing them with thoughts about her self-worth and the realistic possibility that she can make her own luck. After a while, Ellen begins to value herself more and expect better things in her life. Her depression begins to lift.
Here's another example of CBT used for a person with health problems. Rick has several health conditions, mainly due to his obesity. His doctor has told him that if he lost weight, his blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea would improve. Yet, he feels helpless to take off any weight. In CBT sessions with his therapist, Rick examines the thoughts that keep him from taking charge of his health. He learns to change the thought that he'll never be healthy to a more positive thought that he can improve his health conditions. He changes his thought that he can't exercise regularly and that it isn't worth the effort to make these changes. As he learns to think of himself, eating, and exercise more positively and realistically, he is able to lose weight. He's happier with himself, and his health improves.
How long does it take for cognitive behavioral therapy to work?
Traditional CBT generally takes about 12 to 20 weeks, according to Harvard Health's blog. However, there is another version of CBT called I-CBT, or intensive cognitive behavioral therapy. I-CBT is done for longer hours in a shorter period of time. It can work in a month, a week, a weekend, or even a very long 8-hour session.
What are the three main goals in cognitive therapy?
The three main goals for cognitive therapy, specifically CBT, are:
What are the CBT skills?
Here are the main skills you learn in CBT:
How do you set goals in CBT?
CBT is an extremely goal-oriented technique. Everything you do in this kind of therapy aims to solve a problem or reduce symptoms of a mental illness. Setting goals in CBT involves four steps:
Most therapists recommend SMART goals for CBT. SMART goals is an acronym that stands for goals that are:
What is the focus of cognitive behavioral therapy?
The focus of the cognitive behavioral method is to change negative and unrealistic thoughts and beliefs to modify behaviors.
Why is CBT so popular?
CBT is popular for several reasons. It's a behavioral therapy, so it has practical applications. It takes less time to get results than with many other types of therapy. It's proven to be highly effective for dealing with mental illness as well as everyday life problems and habits. Insurance companies prefer it for both those reasons. CBT is also readily available, with many practitioners in communities and online. Plus, it's easy to find self-help apps that are based on CBT principles.
What is CBT for anxiety?
CBT for anxiety is simply the same CBT techniques when they are used to help someone with an anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, social anxiety, PTSD, or generalized anxiety disorder, to name a few. The American Psychological Association discusses the topic of anxiety and the benefits of CBT to treat it. In this specific use, CBT's goal is to recognize and manage all the thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to your feelings of anxiety.