I have depression. I have anxiety. I have an eating disorder. I have a substance addiction. I have a problem.
All of these statements are examples of mental health problems that are very real, not uncommon, and not to be taken lightly. Fortunately, in today’s society, we have a variety of therapeutic practices that, with the right amount of commitment, can help a person escape a downward spiral. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the assumption that our behaviors and moods are directly related to our internal dialogue. The main goal is to get to the root of peoples’ problems, teach them to recognize unwanted patterns, evaluate their validity, and replace them with healthier, more positive ways of thinking.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CBT THERAPY
CBT therapy was invented by psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960’s. While working with his own clients, Beck realized that subconscious “self-talk” was going on in the heads of his patients, but only a fraction of them were actually being spoken out loud. It was in this moment he had an epiphany about the significance of the link between our thoughts and our feelings. Thus, cognitive behavioral therapy was born, and has since undergone many successful scientific trials and been applied to a variety of mental difficulties.
COMMON CBT TECHNIQUES
CBT therapy is meant to challenge the mind and provide individuals with a basic set of foundational coping skills, helping them to replace negative automatic thought and pave the way for a happier, more positive future. Some common cognitive therapy techniques include:
Why are people laughing at me? She looked at me with disappointment and disdain. He thinks I am stupid. These are examples of subconscious discussions we have with ourselves that can easily change the way we feel in a situation. One thing CBT therapy teaches is cognitive restructuring: the process of questioning the validity of our thoughts. People learn that, no matter the situation – good or bad – they can accept it, relax, and find the silver lining. And if they can’t find the silver lining, they can consciously work towards changing their negative feelings into more positive feelings. Cognitive therapy encourages people to develop this life-changing coping skill in a structured and guided manor. Remember challenges and obstacles are inevitable along your journey, but it is how you react to them that determines the quality of the life you live. Change your attitude – it can lead to a happier life.
Therapists expect a certain level of commitment from their patients, and journaling, thought records, and readings may be assigned as homework. These assignments are crucial and provide a backbone for the structuring of each cognitive behavioral therapy session. In addition, homework helps keep people focused on their goals in between sessions and supplies concrete evidence of progress throughout the formal therapy timeline. Remember, cognitive therapy is time limited, and therefore has a distinct end which is determined by the therapist and the client before a session begin. It is not a never-ending cycle – there is a light at the end of tunnel. Focus on it, commit to it, and live it.
Journaling and self-monitoring is an important aspect of homework. It is a way to release thoughts onto paper and get them out of your head, providing a visual image of your root subconscious process. In these sessions, your thought records give the therapist concrete evidence of your behavioral and cognitive patterns. In addition, they prevent you from bottling up emotions, which can then lead to a negative outburst.
By taking action inside and outside of guided therapy you can move toward positive solutions and build self-confidence. You may even begin to move further away from the paralyzing inaction that locks you inside your cloud of problems.
Behavioral Experimentation/Systematic Desensitization
Using situational experiences is a great way to learn practical steps for relaxing in a stressful environment. Your therapist or counselor will help you practice these steps by inducing certain exposure hierarchies during CBT therapy sessions. The techniques and processes you learn can eventually become second nature, with your newly-learned, healthy behavioral patterns spilling over from the therapist’s office to the real-world. Experimental exposure, in a controlled environment, can also help you recognize the beginning signs of a problem in order to tackle the issue proactively.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can prepare you for life. It educates and trains the mind to be optimistic and calm when facing challenges. Remember that you become what you think about. There are always obstacles in life, but it’s how you react to them that determines the quality of and enjoyment in your life. This is not to say someone shouldn’t show emotions – we all do, and that’s part of what makes us social human beings. We do, however, need to be aware of unrealistic assumptions that our automatic thoughts can cause. Question the merit of your negative thoughts and, if deemed to be unnecessarily negative, turn that frown upside down and find the silver lining.
CONTACT CREATIVE COUNSELING CENTER
If you think that cognitive behavioral therapy might help you retrain your brain to focus more on the positive and less on the negative, then contact Creative Counseling Center. Based on your unique history and needs, we’ll pair you with the therapist who is best equipped to help you reach your personal goals. We are happy to offer a free consultation to new patients, or to answer any questions you may have about our counseling center. Just complete the brief form below and a Creative Counseling Center team member will be in touch with you shortly.