CBT Therapy – A Breakdown
By: Sarah Fader
Updated December 17, 2020
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy often used to treat anxiety disorders as well as depression. According to scientific research studies, CBT is as effective in the treatment of depression as antidepressants.
The most optimal treatment plan is medication in conjunction with therapy. However, this is context-dependent. If a person is living with anxiety and feels that they don't need medication, CBT is a great place for that individual to start. The focus of CBT is on helping you understand your thoughts and thought patterns. Our thoughts can actually impact our moods. With the coping techniques of CBT, you have the power to change your feelings as well as your behaviors.
CBT teaches you about cognitive distortions. Often, we are unaware of these unhealthy patterns of thinking until we learn about how they impact our lives in a negative way, and at that point, we can change the way we think about things. Read further is see if you personally experience some of the following cognitive distortions:
This means that you take the negative details and magnify them. Then you ignore the positive attributes of a situation. For example, a person could focus on one negative thing and ruminate on it. Then their perspective of the situation is distorted in a negative light.
- "Black and White" Thinking’
In this distortion, you see things as "black-or-white." There are no shades of gray or middle ground. Either you are perfect or you are a complete failure. There is no in-between, and we know that this is inaccurate in life.
This means that you are concluding something based on one thing that happened. Just because something occurs one time, it doesn't mean it will happen every subsequent time. This is an overgeneralization, and it can be destructive to your thinking.
- Jumping to Conclusions/Mind Reading
You cannot know what another person is thinking. In this distortion, you are jumping to a conclusion, because of your emotional reaction to another person. It's better to ask that person how they feel rather than assume it.
This means that you imagine a terrible scenario where a horrible thing happens based upon a tiny detail. For example, if your friend doesn't call you back, you might assume that she hates you and no longer wants to be your friend or that she died.
Personalization means that you believe that it is about you. An event occurs and you are convinced that it was because of you. Someone's negative response is because you did something wrong. In reality, there are a number of factors at play here and it's not necessarily all about you.
- Control Fallacies
You see yourself as helpless and a victim of fate. There is nothing you can do to change your life because it is predetermined and hence you are doomed. This is inaccurate, and you do have the power to make decisions and advocate for yourself.
- Fallacy of Fairness
Life isn't fair; we've heard this time and time again. However, lamenting about how you are being treated unfairly and there is a vast conspiracy against you is also an exaggeration. Balance in life can happen, and it’s important to recognize that.
It's important to take responsibility and be accountable for your actions. If you feel a certain way, it isn't because of someone else. They could have said something that hurt your feelings, but they didn't "make you feel that way." It's not productive to tell someone "You made me feel bad." What's more productive is to say, "I feel hurt when you say ___." Use your I-statements and you will avoid this distortion.
- Should Statements
Have you ever heard the saying "stop shoulding all over yourself"?When we say "I should do ___," it induces guilt and shame in us. There is no need to say, "I should be" or "I ought to" because there is no rule book for life. You are free to make your own decisions about what’s best for you.
- Emotional Reasoning
You feel a certain way; therefore, it must be the truth. Feelings are not the ultimate indicator of what is logically true. You could feel that someone is angry with you, but until you check in with them and ask, you won't know the truth.
- Fallacy of Change
We believe that we have the power to change other people if we cajole them enough. This isn't true. A person will change, if they want to, on their own time.
"I'm a failure," "I'm a bad friend," "I am stupid." These are all examples of labeling. It's unhelpful to call yourself names. You are a human being with a multitude of qualities, but you are not one thing. We all have flaws, but we are not exclusively identified by them.
- Always Being Right
Nobody is right all the time. In fact, there is no right and wrong in a given argument. There are subjectivity and different people's perspectives. You have your opinion and I have mine. We could be looking at the same shade of green and you think it's blue, while I insist that it's green. No one is right in this situation. It's a matter of opinion.
- Heaven's Reward Fallacy
We believe that if we do the right thing, we will be rewarded somehow in life. This couldn't be further from the truth. Bad things happen to good people and vice versa. There is no one keeping score, and we do the best that we can in our lives.
Learning coping techniques associated with CBT, including cognitive distortions and thought records are extraordinarily helpful for people with anxiety and depression. CBT provides that level of insight into our thinking and has the capacity to better our lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You do CBT on Yourself?
Cognitive behavior therapy is strongly effective, but it’s commonly associated with therapy sessions. If you can’t find a therapist right now or afford one, is there any way you can do it yourself?
Yes. Cognitive behavior therapy involves identifying your patterns of thought and how these thoughts affect your behaviors and emotions and then replacing your thoughts and behaviors with something more positive. If someone is mindful enough and has enough self-discipline, CBT helps with or without a therapist.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find a therapist. Even if you can do it yourself, a therapy session seems to provide cognitive behavior therapy that is much more effective.
What is an Example of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, within a few therapy sessions, can change your life. However, many do not know how it works.
Let’s say you have anxiety. There may be certain thoughts that can feed into your anxiety. For example, you may think you’re dying when you have an anxiety attack, even if you’ve experienced anxiety attacks multiple times. Your negative thoughts end upworsening your experience.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you to replace those thoughts with something that’s more helpful, such as distracting or reassuring thoughts, whenever anxiety attacks you.
How Long Does itTake for CBT to Work?
Cognitivebehavioral therapy can take multiple therapy sessions to work fully, even if you may see results earlier. This can depend on the severity of your problem, along with other factors. The number of therapy sessions can be anywhere from three to over 10.
CBT does require some dedication. Some people may end up quitting early because they do not see any results. Avoid doing this. Keep trying and spend weeks pursuing your goals, and eventually, you’ll see a difference. Even if change is slow, it’s still change, and progress of any kind means you’re growing as a person.
What is CBT used For?
CBT is a short-term therapy technique that is versatile in its uses. You can use CBT for almost all mental health problems that can be worsened by thoughts and behaviors. For instance, you can use CBT to help with your depression, your anxiety, addiction, or to help improve your quality of life in general.
CBT is often used in combination with other forms of talk therapy. The beauty of CBT is that most people can see benefits from it quickly, and with enough discipline, they can enhance how they think and behave.
What areThree Goals forCognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT is generally divided into three goals, which can help clients improve the overall quality of their lives. These goals include:
- Helping the client learn the relationship between self-defeating thoughts and habits.
- Helping the client change the thoughts and habits that cause negativity.
- Learning to practice other behavioral techniques, along with improving oneself even after the therapy sessions have ended. CBT is most effective when combined with other forms of therapy.
Can CBT be Harmful?
CBT is one of those types of psychotherapy that doesn’t have too much harm attached to it. However, just like any therapy, it does have a few risks. CBT may involve exploring thoughts that can make you anxious and uncomfortable. Having a trusted therapist by your side can help you manage your reactions to your thoughts.
What are Some CBT Coping Skills?
In-depth cognitive behavioral therapy offers many different coping skills that can improve how one behaves. A CBT therapist has expertise in many of the skills, and the therapist may decide which of the coping skills work best for you. However, you can try some coping skills on your own:
In-depth cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you meditative breathing. When one has a thought that is troubling them, breathing exercises can make it easier to push the thought away. It’s an aspect of mindfulness as well.
In-depth cognitive behavioral therapy likes promoting the positive behavioral elements. When one is experiencing intense anxiety and depression, it can be hard for them to enjoy the behaviors that they love.
With CBT, we take a critical look at our decisions. Quite often, it can be hard for you to make a decision without overthinking, or you make a decision without a second thought. Decision making in the context of therapy, cognitive style, is to look at the pros and cons critically. This can help you make a more informed decision that will often lead to better outcomes.
Can CBT CureAnxiety?
There is no cure yet for anxiety, but you can learn to cope with episodes and prevent some in the future. CBT helps by changing thoughts that can lead to anxiety, including behaviors and thoughts that can make an anxiety attack even worse.
What Does a CBT Session Look Like?
With multiple sessions, CBT can help you change your life, but what should you expect?
The first session, like most types of therapy sessions, tends to involve assessment. You tell what’s going on and what you want to see changed in your life. This is usually the time to see if the therapist is going to be right for you and if a CBT treatment plan can help you.Keep in mind that while therapists follow the core of CBT, they will make adjustments as they see fit to tailor CBT to their clients.
Afterward, you start learning CBT techniques. You may get homework, where you write down your thoughts and behaviors. This can help the therapist know more about how you function. CBT sessions are structured, and they target certain areas on the client’s agenda. The therapist teaches how the client can change their thinking patterns.
Over time, as improvements happen, the number of sessions descreases because the client is less reliant on the therapist.
Why is CBT so Popular?
In-depth cognitive behavioral therapy is so popular for a couple of reasons. For one, it works and there is plenty of empirical research to support this claim. Secondly, CBT is a simple concept to understand. Other therapeutic techniques can be complex and difficult for the general public to comprehend. The idea of looking at one’s thoughts and behaviors as a way to improve how you live is a simple enough concept for most people.
Who Performs CBT?
CBT is often performed by therapists, many of whom will specialize in psychotherapy and behavioral health. Counselors, self-help gurus, and other people may teach cognitive behavioral therapy as well.
However, the person who ends up performing cognitive behavioral therapy, at the end of the day, is you. You’re the one who explores your thoughts, habits, and makes changes to help your life.
How Do I Start a CBT Session?
A CBT session involves interaction between the client and therapist. The client may have to begin this session by writing down their thoughts and behaviors, which may require a week or so of analysis. Afterward, the client and therapist work together to analyze what the client has written down. Both work together to figure out which thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are unhelpful.
This is the start of a session. Afterward, the client and therapist may figure out how the client can replace unhelpful thoughts with better thoughts, along with behaviors.
It’s something that you can do on your own, but it is recommend you talk to a therapist to get the best results.
What is the goal of CBT?
CBT is short-term therapy to help someone change their problematic thoughts and behaviors into something that is much more productive. For example, CBT for depression typically involves changing thoughts that may make you feel more upset, and habits that will feed into depression. In-depth cognitive behavioral therapy may be shorter term, but it is also effective. In many cases, CBT may lead to other applications beyond its initial goal. For example, after improving your depression, you may want to use in-depth cognitive behavioral therapy to improve how you work.
What Are CBT Interventions?
CBT interventions, also known as CBT techniques, are methods you can try in to get the most out of CBT. For example, some people may journal their thoughts and figure out which thoughts are unhelpful. Others may try different behaviors and see which ones work the best for them. Another CBT intervention can be exposure therapy, which can involve slowly facing your fears.
What is the Main Focus of Cognitive Therapy?
CBT focuses on the relationships between your thoughts and your actions. When you have troubling thoughts, it can cause you to perform bad habits, which can feed your thoughts further. CBT tries to make one replace their bad thoughts with something more productive, and work on one’s habits as well.
What Are CBT Core Beliefs?
These are what people think about themselves and the people around them. These core beliefs can form any time, but they often happen when a person is young. These beliefs can be positive, but they can also be negative. For example, someone may have a core belief that they are weak because they cry.
Core beliefs can change depending on the situation. A confident person, for example, who has a core belief that they are strong, may feel weak whenever an anxiety episode happens.
CBT hopes to examine one’s core beliefs to see which ones are helpful and which are unhelpful. It is possible to change one’s core beliefs with time, especially if there is little evidence to back up one’s beliefs. When your mind convinces you that something is not true, these are known as cognitive distortions.
What Are Should Statements in CBT?
Should statements, in the context of CBT, include challenging yourself when you say you should have done something. For example, if you forgot to shower today, you may think to yourself, “I should have showered.” It’s important to counter that thought with a “why” statement. “Why didn’t you shower?” With “should’ thoughts, we sometimes let ourselves off the hook because we believe what we should have done is not a requirement but a statement.
How Much Does CBT Therapy Cost?
Cost depends on the therapist and location. Many therapists provide cognitive behavioral therapy, but those who specialize in it can cost anywhere from around $175 to $190.Because you’ll need multiple therapy sessions, CBT can be expensive. Insurance, pro bono therapy, and public clinics can help you to reduce the cost or be able to get therapy for free.
What AreSome Problems with CBT?
Cognitive-behavior therapy has many advantages, but just like anything, there can be some downsides as well. CBT doesn't have horrifying side effects, but there are some things to keep in mind, such as:
- Commitment. Someone who tries cognitive behavioral therapy has to stay committed, both in and out of the therapist’s office, and for some, that can be too much.
- CBT treatment may not be good for those who have severe mental health problems or problems learning.
- With cognitive behavioral therapy, you do have to confront some emotions you have trouble with, so it can make you feel anxious. However, the emotions a client encounters inCBT tend not to be underlying causes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is for many people, but just like any therapy type, it may not be for everyone.
Can CBT Change Your Personality?
Cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of therapy have the potential to change your personality. Because CBT is based on exploring your behaviors and thoughts, both can change and thus have an effect on your personality. CBT is about ridding the destructive parts of your personality, so you’re not changing the core of who you are but removing the impediments that keep you from living fully.
What is the Success Rate of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach based on evidence, and there is plenty of evidence to prove its effectiveness. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information,cognitive therapy is considered the gold standard when treating various mental disorders. The effectiveness of CTB though depends on the severity of the issue, and the person’s willingness to try this type of therapeutic approach. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy can increase in effectiveness when combined with medicine.
With this type of therapy, online therapy has been proven to be just as effective and in one study more effective than face-to-face therapy. Another advantage found in the study is that online therapy is more cost-effective.
How BetterHelp Can Support You
If you are still struggling with thought and behavioral issues you want to change, you might want to find a therapist who specializes in CBT. To make the therapy process easier for you, meeting with an online therapist is an option. This way, you can meet where it’s most comfortable for you and at a time that works best for you.
There are many counselors at BetterHelpwho can teach you valuable skills in recognizing your own cognitive distortions and how to change them. Below you’ll find some reviews from others who have recently focused on CBT with BetterHelp counselors.
“Kelsey is warm, responsive, and flexible in working with her clients' needs. I'm primarily doing cognitive behavioral therapy with her to change some distressing behaviors, and her support and concrete actions have guided me well.”
“Jackie consistently guides and supports my progress, while creatively challenging my cognitive distortions. I feel super fortunate to have Jackie as an intelligent and compassionate counselor who lifts my eyes up and into focus.”
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