Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is form of psychotherapy treatment which believes that emotions, thoughts, and actions are all interconnected for human beings. CBT deals primarily with today and the here and now. CBT also believes that a person can interpret events, experiences, and/or situations in their lives through the internal dialogue which is influenced by emotions, thoughts, and actions. Aaron Beck, the developer of CBT, recognized that a tendency for human beings was to develop negative types for dialogues for themselves which if those dialogues last long enough, become an automatic foundation of thoughts, feelings, and actions. For instance, when faced with a new situation, some people may move away from the opportunity because they first thought is: I will never be good enough to achieve that! CBT is a goal oriented therapy which challenges the foundation of a person’s negative thinking with the purpose of freeing a person from the strangulating hold their thinking may have within their life. Aaron Beck believed that it was not the event or experience that affected people, but the meaning people attach to the experience or event. CBT sees the way a person’s interpretation as blocking their future ability to interpret other events. The interpretation can become a mold of how the person sees similar future situations which can limit the opportunities of the person.
For example, a depressed woman may think, “I can’t face going into work today: I can’t do it. Nothing will go right. I’ll feel awful.” As a result of having these thoughts – and of believing them – she may convince herself that she is sick, and call in. By doing so, she won’t have the chance to find out that her prediction was wrong. She might have found some things she could do at work, and at least some things that were okay. But, instead, she stays at home, brooding about her failure to go in and ends up thinking: “I’ve let everyone down. They will be angry with me. Why can’t I do what everyone else does? I’m so weak and useless.” That woman will generally end up feeling worse, and has even more difficulty going in to work the next day. Thinking, behaving, and feeling like this may start a downward spiral. This vicious circle can apply to many different kinds of problems.
Although CBT is looked at as a short term therapy, and it can be as short as seven weeks, it focuses on the counselor and the client developing goals and strategies which target negative thoughts, emotions, or actions that a person wants to change within their lives. CBT has proven through numerous studies to be very effective with a variety of different types of disorders:
Mental health conditions that may improve with cognitive behavioral therapy include:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Substance use disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is most effective when it’s combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.