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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Treatment that Works

Depending on what you’re seeing a psychologist or therapist for, you’ll want to search for the right therapeutic method. If you were aiming to resolve your childhood wounds, especially if those wounds were interfering with an ability to function in the world, then perhaps psychoanalysis or dream therapy would be the best choice.

However, if you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) addresses the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that is creating the mental and emotional anguish. It isn’t that one form of therapy is better than the other. Certainly, depression and anxiety can be the result of experiencing unresolved childhood issues. The difference is the therapeutic approach.

There are two different types of therapy, one that is insight based and another that is learning based. Those that promote insight or revelation regarding your thought pattern, history, behavior, or life choices are called insight therapies. In psychoanalysis, for example, certain techniques are used to uncover the underlying concerns that might be leading to distress, such as a deeply seated belief in unworthiness that is preventing the ability to maintain long-term love relationships. On the other hand, those therapies that focus on how a disorder manifests in your life and aim to teach new forms of behavior, decision making, or thought patterns are called learning-based or cognitive therapies. These therapies are not so concerned with causes as they are with making change to patterns of thinking, feeling, or behaving.

CBT essentially aims to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. Monitoring and documenting thoughts helps to easily identify the connections between them and the specific reactions to certain events in the day. Furthermore, by identifying specific thoughts that yield challenging emotions, CBT facilitates changing that thought in order to be free of the tension that it brings.

To do this, you may be asked to use what is called A Thought Diary. It’s a documentation tool for monitoring feelings of anxiety, fear, hurt, anger, shame, guilt, or sadness. Along with noting when and where these feelings were experienced. A Thought Diary invites that you also write down the thought that accompanied or triggered that feeling, in addition to noting the situation you were in. This facilitates a deeper reflection on the self–talk that happens in your mind and specifically in certain situations. A Thought Diary can aide in finding those thoughts that are harmful and self-defeating. Without this sort of reflection, these damaging thoughts might go unnoticed, and cultivating this sort of awareness is the benefit of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

However, that’s not all. CBT also encourages the finding alternative thoughts – those that are more helpful, realistic, and supportive – to create a more positive inner experience. For example, instead of “I am worthless”; the new thought might be “I can do this”. Clients working with a CBT Therapist would learn that helpful thoughts are those that promote self-acceptance and state preferences versus thoughts that make absolute demands with words like “should” or “must”.

A client is then encouraged to use their new, alternative thoughts, particularly when in similar circumstances. As therapy continues, the process of distinguishing feelings continues. Other emotions such as annoyance, concern, regret, or remorse are also examined to uncover their effects on behavior and choices. Use of A Thought Diary continues throughout therapy in order to rate the intensity of emotions, further increasing a client’s awareness of feelings, thoughts, and behavior. CBT’s ability to increase one’s awareness also facilitates the ability to stop making choices unconsciously and start to make decisions that support a healthy self-esteem.

It is clear that certain thoughts and beliefs lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. When these thoughts continue unnoticed throughout life, they can lead to mental illness. Indeed, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can facilitate mental wellbeing, reduce anxiety, and treat depression. In fact, CBT is increasingly being used with adolescents and adults who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and even schizophrenia.

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