How Does Cognitive Behavior Therapy Work?
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment that seeks to enhance mood by altering thoughts and feelings. It’s commonly used for depression and anxiety disorders, but may also benefit those struggling with other mental health issues.
CBT is founded on the most up-to-date scientific understanding of how emotions, behaviors and thinking patterns interact to form psychological problems. It works by interrupting the system responsible for negative mood states and problematic behaviors; this leads to more adaptive thoughts and fewer emotional difficulties.
Therapy sessions allow your therapist to help you examine and analyze your thoughts and behavior in different contexts to identify the underlying issue. They then employ several techniques to alter those habits, giving you greater self-control over your thoughts and behavior.
Your therapist may begin by asking you to list your thoughts about a particular situation, such as a job interview or meeting with friends. This process is known as ‘thought inventory’ and involves analyzing each thought to determine its accuracy or inaccuracy.
When you become aware of an inaccurate or unhelpful thought, your therapist will encourage you to challenge it. The next step is reshaping the thought so that it no longer affects your decisions or behavior. Together, they can find ways to replace negative or inaccurate ones with more beneficial ones that are easier to remember and use in future scenarios.
You may receive homework assignments to practice your new coping skills and enhance your capacity for dealing with life’s obstacles. These could include rehearsing how to avoid situations that could trigger a relapse or learning relaxation techniques that can help soothe the mind during stressful events.
Many of these techniques can be difficult to learn, so having support from your therapist and others in your life as you work through them is essential. They will also be able to offer feedback on your progress and assist in understanding what works best for you.
The therapist will use a process known as “case conceptualization” or “case formulation” to uncover the causes of your mental health issue. They then construct an accurate model or set of hypotheses (educated guesses) about how this problem operates and collaborate with you on its investigation.
This helps identify hidden sources of your issue and helps you comprehend how each component interacts to form symptoms. Your therapist then can focus on altering each factor with the aim of eliminating all symptoms altogether.
Your therapist may suggest the “thought challenge,” which involves writing down negative automatic thoughts that you have noticed yourself thinking. Your therapist then helps you recognize when these thoughts have made you feel bad and then helps rework them into more helpful, realistic ones.
This can be an extremely effective tool for improving mental health. It has particular utility when treating panic attacks, phobias and other conditions characterized by rapid emotional escalation.