Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Is a solution-focused, goal-oriented form of talk therapy that combines cognitive and behavioral principles and methods to treat a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, to name a few (APA, n.d.). CBT assumes that psychological distress is, in part, due to faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking. As unhelpful thoughts can make it difficult for a person to function confidently in different situations, CBT focuses on developing healthy strategies to address maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors to break the cycle of dysfunctional habitual behaviors. The benefits of CBT include helping reduce stress, manage grief, cope with complicated relationships, and face many other common life challenges (Fenn & Bryne, 2013).
According to Corey (2009), CBT assumes that we are not disturbed by the events in our lives but that our emotions stem mainly from our beliefs, evaluations, interpretation, and reaction to life situations. Emotional reactions are associated with basic beliefs and therefore cognitively created. This approach is based on a structured psychoeducational model that aims to change how a person thinks (cognitive) and what they do (behavior). CBT, therefore, uses both cognitive and behavioral techniques. Through the therapeutic process, you learn skills to help identify and dispute irrational beliefs that have been developed. With an emphasis on the present, CBT focuses on ‘here and now’ problems and difficulties instead of spending inordinate time on past events. This approach addresses current issues in addition to future problems.
Getting the most out of CBT
CBT is not effective for everyone. Here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your sessions:
- Think of therapy as a partnership.
- CBT is a collaborative therapy, requiring the individual and counselor to work together to set mutually agreed goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited. Therapy is most effective when you are an active participant and share in decision-making and goal setting. Give some thought to what you want to discuss during sessions.
- Do not be afraid to open up.
- It is normal to experience difficulty opening up about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. As success with therapy depends on your willingness to disclose, discuss any reservations about opening up with your therapist.
- Follow your treatment plan.
- You may feel tempted to skip sessions if you are experiencing a significant increase or even decrease in mood; however, doing so may disrupt your progress. Make a commitment to attend sessions as scheduled.
- Don’t expect instant results.
- Working through emotional issues can be painful and challenging, especially if something taught you that feelings were unsafe. You may feel worse until you learn to accept and tolerate your feelings. You may need several sessions before you begin to see progress.
- Do your homework!
- Homework assignments are used to reinforce the learning of CBT concepts. An emphasis on the role of homework assignments that draws from a variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies to bring about change places responsibility on you, the client, to assume an active role in applying what you are learning in your daily life. As therapy is seen as an educational process, you are encouraged to read self-help books as well as practicing healthy coping skills outside of regular therapy sessions. Making change is challenging but doing work outside of the session is an essential step in learning how to adjust your own thinking, problematic emotions and behavior.
- “I don’t feel any different.”
- If you don’t feel that you’re benefiting from CBT after several sessions, talk to your therapist. You and your therapist can explore other treatment approaches.
Length of therapy
CBT is generally considered short-term therapy typically ranging from about five to 20 sessions (Fenn & Bryne, 2013). You and your therapist will discuss how many sessions may be right for you. Factors that determine the length of therapy include type of disorder or situation, severity of symptoms (frequency, intensity, and duration), and how quickly you make progress.
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Written by: Donnulette Dulaney, MS LPC
Donnulette Dulaney, is a Licensed Professional Counselor that uses a collaborative, client-centered approach that focuses on what you as a “one of a kind” person needs, and works towards achieving your goals and creating a life that you are excited to live!
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). What is cognitive behavioral therapy? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
Corey, G. (2009, 2005). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. (8th ed.). Belmont, CA.
Fenn, K, and Bryne, M. (2013). The key principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1755738012471029