The Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy approach works by positively impacting the two-way relationship between thoughts (“cognitions”) and behaviours.
There are three levels of thought:
Thoughts and behaviours influence each other. Behaviour can be changed using techniques such as:
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is practical and short-term. It helps my clients develop skills and strategies for becoming and staying healthy.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy focuses on the here-and-now— on the problems that come up in your day-to-day life today. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy will help you examine how to make sense of what is happening around you and how your perceptions affect the way you feel.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is:
In Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, clients learn to identify, question and change the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs related to the emotional and behavioural reactions that cause them difficulty.
By monitoring and recording thoughts during upsetting situations, people learn how they think can contribute to emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. CBT helps to reduce these emotional problems by teaching clients to:
There has been a lot of research on CBT. Evidence suggests that it is particularly effective in treating anxiety and depression. CBT has also been tailored to other specific problems.
For example, CBT is also used to treat:
Core beliefs are a person’s most central ideas about themselves, others, and the world. These beliefs act like a lens through which every situation and life experience is seen. Because of this, people with different core beliefs might be in the same situation, but think, feel, and behave very differently.
Even if a core belief is inaccurate, it still shapes how a person sees the world. Harmful core beliefs lead to negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whereas rational core beliefs lead to balanced reactions.
The fundamental principle behind Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is that your thought patterns affect your emotions, which, in turn, can affect your behaviours.
For instance, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy highlights how negative thoughts can lead to negative feelings and actions. If you reframe your thoughts more positively, this can lead to more optimisim and encourage productive behaviours.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy teaches you how to make changes you can implement right now. These are skills you can continue to use for the rest of your life.
Depending on the issue you’re dealing with and your goals, there are several ways to approach Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.
Whatever approach you take, it will include:
Perhaps you tend to over-generalize, assume the worst will happen or place far too much importance on minor details. Thinking this way can affect what you do, and it can even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your therapist will ask about your thought process in certain situations so you can identify negative patterns. Once you’re aware of them, you can learn how to reframe those thoughts to be more positive and productive.
For example: “I blew the report because I’m completely useless” can become “That report wasn’t my best work, but I’m a valuable employee, and I contribute in many ways.”
In guided discovery, the therapist will acquaint themselves with your viewpoint. Then they’ll ask questions designed to challenge your beliefs and broaden your thinking.
The counsellor will ask you to give evidence that supports your assumptions and proof that does not.
In the process, you’ll learn to see things from other perspectives, especially ones that you may not have considered before. These new perspectives can help you choose a more helpful path.
Exposure therapy is a technique for confronting fears and phobias. This technique gradually and incrementally exposes you to the things that provoke fear or anxiety while being taught how to tolerate and become comfortable with them in the present moment.
Exposure therapy progresses in small increments. Eventually, exposure can make you feel less vulnerable and more confident in your coping abilities.
Writing is a time-honoured way of getting in touch with your thoughts.
You may be asked to list negative thoughts that occurred to you between sessions, as well as positive thoughts you can choose instead.
Another writing exercise is to keep track of the new thoughts and new behaviours you put into practice since the last session. Putting the details in writing helps you track how far you’ve come
If you tend to delay or avoid an activity because of fear or anxiety, getting these activities on your calendar can help you confront what you fear. Once you don’t feel you have to decide, you may be more likely to follow through.
Activity scheduling can help establish positive habits and give you ample opportunity to put what you’ve learned into practice.
Behavioural experiments are an approach that’s suited to treat anxiety disorders where you find yourself spiralling into catastrophic thinking.
Before embarking on a task that usually makes you anxious, you’ll be asked to predict what will happen.
Over time, you’ll talk about whether the prediction came true. You may start to see that the predicted catastrophe is unlikely to happen. You’ll likely begin with lower-anxiety tasks and build up from there.
Progressive relaxation techniques are frequently taught to clients undergoing Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. These progressive relaxation techniques include:
You’ll learn practical skills to help lower stress and increase your sense of control. Relaxation and stress reduction can help deal with phobias, social anxieties, and other stressors.
Role-playing can help you work through different behaviours in potentially tricky situations.
By acting out possible scenarios you can reduce fear and anxiety so you can:
Each successive step builds upon the previous steps, so you progressively build confidence as you safely move forward, step by step.