Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-studied and very effective technique for dealing with a host of psychological issues. Rather than searching for the root cause of a person’s difficulties, CBT is short-term and goal-oriented. It focuses on problems that exist here and now, creating quick and effective results. The basic premise that underlies this type of therapy is that all people have distorted thinking. The human brain begins learning as soon as it interacts with the environment. As a result, it downloads information indiscriminately: the good and the bad, the helpful and the harmful. Therefore, all people have distorted thinking patterns, commonly referred to as cognitive distortions, that may negatively influence their lives. Learning how to recognize and interrupt these cognitive distortions is at the core of successful CBT.
Benefits of Undergoing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT has been studied thoroughly and proven to be successful in the treatment of many mental health issues, including:
- Substance Abuse and Addiction
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
However, it isn’t necessary to have a diagnosis of any kind to benefit from CBT. For example, among other things, individuals who undergo CBT learn to:
- Recognize harmful habitual thinking patterns
- Decrease negative thinking
- Develop self-awareness
- Learn to deliberately choose better behaviors
- Think more rationally
- Identify and modify false beliefs
- Manage powerful emotions, such as anger and fear
- Interpret situations more accurately
- Become aware of and change negative self-talk
- Be more in control of their destiny
- Evaluate their thoughts
- See things from a more beneficial and rational perspective
Popular Cognitive Therapy Techniques
Recognizing cognitive distortions is a central objective of CBT. Cognitive distortions include:
- Catastrophizing: Focusing only on the worst-case scenario
- Filtering: Dwelling on only the negative and ignoring the positive
- Overgeneralizing: Taking a single event and making it part of a pattern
- Mind-reading: Presuming to know what people are thinking
- Labeling: Making a judgement about oneself based only on an action
- Should statements: Holding oneself to unattainable standards
- Personalization: Blaming oneself for things they have no control over
- Magnification: Exaggerating the importance of negative events
- All-or-nothing thinking: Viewing things in absolute terms – all good or all bad, with nothing in between
- Discounting the positive: Ignoring or undervaluing good things
The most common therapeutic techniques center around recognizing and eliminating cognitive distortions. There’s plenty of options that can be tried.
- Journaling helps an individual uncover destructive thought patterns. It helps develop an awareness of how one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors relate to each other and what causes them.
- A thought record is a tool often used in CBT to help people evaluate their negative thoughts and come up with better, more rational ones.
- Reframing negative experiences is a technique that helps a person take a step back from a situation and view it from a new, more positive perspective.
- Replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations helps people integrate new ways of thinking into their lives.
- Cultivation of mindfulness is sometimes used in CBT to help people learn to stay in the present moment instead of missing the past or worrying about the future.
- CBT also may use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation and meditation to manage the stress caused by negative thinking patterns.
Cognitive therapy offers a person a way to discover and replace the distorted thinking patterns that lead to self-destructive behaviors. CBT can help break down the barriers created by negative thinking and help people live a more positive and productive life.
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