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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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Since you are visiting this website, I think it is probably reasonably safe to assume that you may have some interest in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And while CBT is by all accounts a fascinating subject, lets start off by looking at what CBT really is, and what it is not.

At it’s core CBT is a form of psychotherapy that is focused on how our thinking affects our emotions, behavior, and how we ultimately experience life.

And while Cognitive Behavioral Therapy utilizes a number of different techniques, it cannot be considered a “therapeutic technique” in and of itself. Instead, when people talk about¬†Cognitive Behavioral Therapy what they are talking about are a wide variety of similar therapies including: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy,¬† Exposure Therapy, Stress Inoculation Training, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy,Cognitive Therapy, Relaxation Training, and Rational Living Therapy, which all fall under the broader umbrella CBT.

What Is The Point Of CBT – What Can It do For You?

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that was originally created for treating clinical depression. These days however the science has evolved and people are using CBT to address a wide range of disorders including anxiety, eating disorders, chronic pain, psychosis, schizophrenia, personality disorders just to name a few. Increasingly even many people without any such disorders are finding that CBT can be used as an effective tool for helping to manage stress and improve their quality of life.

Basically CBT is a way to solve problems by changing unhelpful thinking and behavior.

How Does CBT Work? Lets Take A Deeper Look…

science drawing of brainAll CBT techniques are based on what experts call the “Cognitive Model of Emotional Response“. Basically, the idea is that it is our individual thoughts and thought patterns that are responsible for our emotional responses, feelings and what we do (our subsequent behaviors). In other words CBT is about taking responsibility for feelings and actions rather than blaming them on external circumstances and the things that other people say and do.

For example, many people dislike their jobs and the bosses who they work for. In most cases these people place the blame for their negative experiences on the job externally. They blame the fact that they never went to college, or they blame the economy, or they just blame their boss for being a big jerk. Somebody using CBT techniques on the other hand would realize that they are the one who is in control of their thinking and in doing so they can liberate themselves to actively change their thinking, their emotions and their behavior in order to bring about a better outcome.

One of the main jobs of Cognitive Behavioral therapists is to try to figure out what their clients really want out of life. This can be difficult because so many people are unclear on their goals. However, a trained professional should be able to help their clients uncover and define these goals, and then ultimately achieve them.

As you can imagine this process of uncovering and defining goals requires good listening skills on the part of a therapist. They need to be able to really understand their clients’ concerns so that they can fully understand them and then offer strategies for addressing these problems.

Science tells us that the majority of our emotional and behavioral responses are “learned” behaviors, rather than instincts that were biologically hardwired into us from birth. This being the case, CBT aims to help people unlearn these ineffective reactions and helps them to discover new ways of thinking and responding that lead to far better outcomes. This is one of the ways that CBT is educational in nature.

About The “Inductive Method”…

A central aspect of Rational thinking is that it is based on fact. Often, we upset ourselves about things when, in fact, the situation isn’t like we think it is. If we knew that, we would not waste our time upsetting ourselves.

The so-called “inductive method” encourages people to examine their own thinking and recognize the fact that most of our thoughts are merely guesses, educated or otherwise, rather than cut-and-dried facts. This being the case it only makes sense that we should test out and question these hypotheses of ours, and dispose of our incorrect hypotheses when we find them to be inaccurate.

The 4 Steps:

One thing I really like about CBT is how clearly defined the process is. The whole point of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not to look at a person’s life, their feelings, thoughts and behavior, from a holistic perspective and then decide what aspects of their thinking need to be fixed.

This process is broken down into a four step assessment:

Step 1: Identify critical behaviors

Step 2: Determine whether critical behaviors are excesses or deficits

Step 3: Evaluate critical behaviors for frequency, duration, or intensity (obtain a baseline)

Step 4: If excess, attempt to decrease frequency, duration, or intensity of behaviors; if deficits, attempt to increase behaviors.

Another Benefit – It Works Fast

One thing a lot of people like about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is how quickly practitioners are able to see tangible results. When a lot of people think about “therapy” they think about psychoanalysis, which usually involves seeing a therapist weekly for years and even decades getting “psychoanalyzed”, in a sense it is “never-ending” because their is no defined end point. Sure, some people who have undergone psychoanalysis will tell you that is beneficial, but my point is that that is a very different type of therapy.

CBT on the other hand is action driven, results oriented and time-limited. Qualified CBT therapists will make clear to their patients the fact that their therapy will end, and define that results that are to be achieved. As such this is a type of therapy that may well appeal to more pragmatic patients.