What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that focuses on examining the
relationships between dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and cognitions through a goal-oriented,
systematic process. By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to self-destructive actions and the beliefs
that direct these thoughts, people can modify their patterns of thinking to improve coping. CBT is
different from traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy in that the therapist is problem-focused, and
goal-directed in addressing the patient’s symptoms and in that the patient and therapist actively works
together to help the patient develop more effective coping skills.
Components of CBT
People often experience thoughts or feelings that reinforce or compound faulty beliefs. Such beliefs can
result in problematic behaviors that can affect numerous life areas, including family, romantic
relationships, work and academics. For example, a person suffering from low self-esteem might
experience negative thoughts about his or her own abilities or appearance. As a result of these negative
thinking patterns, the individual might start avoiding social situations or pass up opportunities for
advancement at work or at school.
The premise of cognitive behavioral therapy is that changing maladaptive thinking or in changing one’s
relationship to maladaptive thinking leads to change in affect and in behavior. The individual’s therapist
challenges the patient’s patterns and beliefs and replaces errors in thinking such as over-generalizing,
magnifying negatives, minimizing positives and catastrophizing, with more realistic and effective
thoughts, thus decreasing emotional distress and self-defeating behavior, or to take a more open,
mindful, and aware posture toward them so as to diminish their impact.
What is the CBT Process?
In order to combat destructive thoughts and behaviors, a cognitive behavior therapist begins by helping
the client to identify the problematic beliefs. This stage is important for learning how thoughts, feelings
and situations can contribute to maladaptive behaviors. The process can be difficult, but it can
ultimately lead to self-discovery and insight that are an essential part of the treatment process.
The second part of cognitive behavior therapy focuses on the actual behaviors that are contributing to
the problem. The client begins to learn and practice new skills that can then be put into use in real-world
situations. For example, a person suffering from drug addiction might start practicing new coping skills
and rehearsing ways to avoid or deal with social situations that might trigger a relapse.
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