Explained: How Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Works
CBT is used for treating anxiety, depression, eating disorders, phobias, ADHD, self-esteem issues, panic attacks.
A common question a lot of new clients have is how talking will help them change their behaviour and thoughts. Therapy uses many different treatment methods for different problems. One of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy is CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is a method which focuses on re-framing negative behaviour and thought patterns into more positive ones.
So how does CBT work?
CBT is based on the assumption that many of our problems arise from our faulty thought patterns (cognition) and hence if we want to change the behaviour, we first have to fix the corresponding thought which leads to that behaviour.
It is a highly goal oriented and focused form of therapy and requires the therapist and client to collaborate and work together towards their mutually accepted and established goals.
The therapist helps the client identify the source of the negative thinking and then they together work towards transforming those thoughts into positive ones and also establishing productive behaviours and healthier responses.
For example Anita is scared of crowded places. Her therapist will first help her identify what causes the fear and then develop a plan which will help her cope with crowded places. The methods are tweaked and tested till the fear is alleviated.
Once the clients learn how their thoughts influence their emotions and their behaviours, they work with the therapist to find effective coping mechanisms and hence learn to manage real world situations in a much better manner.
Since the purpose of CBT is to help the client better in real world situations, the techniques or action plan discussed in the sessions need to be applied and tested to see their effectiveness. Hence the client is often given some “homework” by their therapist. These might include journaling, or meditation or trying something which the client fears.
For example Anita may be encouraged to try to go to places with crowds which would initially make her fearful to see how she is being able to cope. The therapist will ideally ask her to increase her tolerance by measures, so first a park then maybe a shopping mall and then if she’s doing very well a crowded underground metro.
What is CBT used for?
CBT is widely used for treating anxiety, depression, eating disorders, phobias, ADHD, self-esteem issues, panic attacks, tobacco dependence and more. Any problem which arises from our negative thoughts and behaviours can be effectively treated by CBT.
So even if you’re in a relationship in which you feel unloved or have communication issues, your therapist may use CBT to get to the root of your negative thoughts.
CBT is mostly used as an effective short term treatment plan in which the focus is a specific problem. If your concern is more existential than a different therapy is better for you.
For CBT to be effective the client must be willing to implement changes in his or her life and to spend much time and effort into understanding their own thoughts and emotions. Though such introspection and honesty doesn’t come very easily to all it helps one develop long lasting coping skills that can be used to solve a myriad amount of everyday problems in the future as well.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)
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