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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy in which the client and therapist examine the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Self-destructive behaviors, problems in relationships, depression, and anxiety are often the focus of CBT interventions. Cognitive behavioral therapy uses a practical approach in which the therapist helps the client understand types of distortions in thinking that may provoke an undesired emotional response or behavioral reaction. With coaching and support from the therapist, the client learns that perception will directly affect the ways in which we react to certain circumstances.

CBT is somewhat different from traditional psychotherapy in that the therapist and the patient will actively work together to help the client make changes in perception, emotional reactivity, and behavioral patterns. Clients who seek CBT can expect their therapist to be focused and goal-directed in addressing their problematic issues and symptoms. Because CBT is an active intervention, one can also expect to do homework or practice outside of sessions.

The therapist will typically teach the client several techniques aimed at reframing the automatic perception or thought that contribute to a negative belief. Searching for evidence of the automatic thought is a hallmark of CBT interventions. Common therapeutic tools include journaling, thought-stopping, challenging beliefs, mindfulness, and relaxation. The therapist will encourage the client to recognize the unrealistic perceptions that tend to lead to problematic behavior patterns. Most people who participate in this type of therapy usually do so for several months in sessions that last an hour at a time. The client will ultimately develop a skillset that can be applied independently outside the therapeutic setting. CBT therapists intend to equip the client to successfully manage symptoms and maladaptive patterns in real life situations.

CBT has been shown to be as useful as antidepressant medications for some individuals with depression. The skills learned in CBT are also helpful in preventing relapse of symptoms. Patients participating in CBT for depression are encouraged to schedule positive activities into their daily calendars in order to increase the amount of pleasure they experience. In addition, depressed clients learn how to change or restructure negative thought patterns in order to interpret their environment in a more positive way.

CBT is also a useful treatment for anxiety disorders. Patients who experience persistent anxiety are encouraged to test out beliefs they have related to the distress. This can include visualizing the feared situation in session and working toward experiencing the situation in-vivo after time, practice, and support from the therapist. As the client develops CBT skills, a more realistic and positive response to difficult situations can develop. CBT is beneficial in decreasing both the frequency and intensity of anxiety and panic attacks.

The process of transformation is not always recognized immediately. In general, clients participating in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy learn how to replace negative thoughts and destructive behaviors with healthier thoughts, beliefs, and actions that will facilitate personal growth and healing. The relationship between the client and the therapist is ideally one of complete honesty in order for the therapist to best understand the problematic issues and provide accurate support.