What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? How It Works, Uses and More

The cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected, and negative thoughts and feelings can get you into a vicious circle; it aims to help you cope with overwhelming problems in a more positive by dividing them into smaller parts.

Unlike some other talk treatments, you deal with your current problems; instead of focusing on the issues from your past, you look for practical ways to improve your mood daily.

What is cognitive-behavioral therapy?

It is a psychosocial intervention that is the evidence-based practice used to improve mental health, guided by empirical research, focuses on the development of personal coping strategies aimed at solving current problems and changing useless patterns in cognitions (for example, thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), behaviors and emotional regulation. It was initially designed to treat depression and is now used for several mental health conditions.

The model is based on combining the basic principles of behavioral and cognitive psychology.

It is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and increases happiness by modifying dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Unlike traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, which investigates childhood wounds to get to the root causes of conflict, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on solutions, encouraging patients to challenge distorted cognitions and change destructive behavior patterns.

History of cognitive-behavioral therapy

It was invented by a psychiatrist, Aaron Beck, in the 1960s; he was doing psychoanalysis and observed that during his analytic sessions, his patients tended to have an internal dialogue in their minds, almost as if they were talking to themselves. But they would only report a fraction of these kinds of thoughts.

Beck realized that the link between thoughts and feelings was vital; he invented the term automatic studies to describe thoughts full of emotions that could appear in the mind and also that people were not always aware of such ideas, but that they could learn to identify and report them. If a person felt sad, the thoughts were usually negative, not realistic, or helpful; he found that placing them was the key for the client to understand and overcome their difficulties.

Beck called it cognitive therapy because of its importance on thinking; it is now known as cognitive-behavioral therapy because the therapy also employs behavioral techniques. The balance between mental and behavioral elements varies between different therapies of this type, but they are all included under the generic term. Since then, it has undergone successful scientific testing in many places by other teams and applied to a wide variety of problems.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Uses of cognitive-behavioral therapy

It is an effective way to treat several different mental health conditions. In addition to depression or anxiety disorders, it can also help people with:

It is also sometimes used to treat people with long-term health conditions, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Although it cannot cure the physical symptoms of these conditions, it can help people better cope with their symptoms.

How does cognitive behavioral therapy work?

The goal is to change the thinking and behaviors that prevent positive outcomes; this therapy can help people solve various medical, social, work, and emotional problems. Other forms of psychotherapy involve delving into the past to provide insight into the feelings.

It focuses on “the here and now” thoughts and beliefs; specific skills are practiced that involve recognizing distorted thinking, modifying beliefs, relating to others in different ways, and finally, the individual can learn to behave in the desired manner.

Cognitive misperceptions can lead to unhealthy behaviors; when an individual experiences a stressful event, automatic thoughts come to mind and lead to negative moods and emotions.

This faulty thinking becomes a feedback loop unless it is interrupted and tested against reality. The cognitive-behavioral therapist helps the individual to recognize how distorted thinking directly affects mood and emotions and teaches how to change rigid thought patterns.

For example, a person with dental disease fears going to the dentist because he believes he will suffer severe pain or even death from a tooth procedure. The fear may have been triggered by a negative dental experience in early childhood; a person with this phobia may lose sleep, experience extreme anxiety, and may neglect the care of their teeth. A cognitive-behavioral therapist can work with this individual to address faulty thinking and develop a plan to overcome the fear.

It is a short-term therapy that lasts from one to twenty sessions, is problem-specific, goal-oriented, and is designed to achieve remission and prevent relapse of a specific disorder. Common interventions performed are listed below:

  • Identify problem areas.
  • Develop awareness of automatic thoughts.
  • Distinguish rational and irrational conclusions.
  • Stop negative thinking.
  • Challenge underlying assumptions.
  • See a situation from different perspectives.
  • Identify what is realistic.
  • Test perceptions against reality.
  • Correct the thought so that it more closely resembles reality.
  • Examine the validity and usefulness of a particular study.
  • Identify and modify distorted beliefs.
  • Improve mood awareness.
  • Keep a cognitive behavior journal.
  • Avoid generalizations.
  • Focus on how things are rather than how they should be.
  • Describe, accept and understand rather than judge.

What happens during the sessions of this therapy?

You will generally have a session with a therapist once a week or once every two weeks; it lasts between five and 20 sessions, and each session lasts 30 to 60 minutes. During the sessions, you will work with your therapist to break down your issues, such as your thoughts, physical feelings, and actions.

You and your therapist will analyze these areas to determine if they are unrealistic or helpful. To assess their effect on others and you, your therapist can help you discover how to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. After figuring out what you can change, you will be asked to practice these changes in your daily life and discuss how they developed during the next session.

The ultimate goal of therapy is to teach you to apply the skills you learned during treatment to your daily life; this should help you manage your problems and prevent them from hurting your life, even after your treatment cycle ends.

Pros and cons of cognitive-behavioral therapy

Therapy can be as effective as medication in treating some mental health problems, but it may not be successful or suitable for everyone.

Some of the advantages include that:

  • It can be helpful in cases where medication alone has not worked.
  • It can be completed in a relatively short period compared to other talk therapies.
  • It teaches you useful and practical strategies that can be used in everyday life, even after treatment.

Some of the disadvantages include that:

  • You need to commit to the process to get the most out of it, a therapist can help and advise you, but they need your cooperation.
  • Attending regular sessions and carrying out any additional work between sessions can be time-consuming and may not be suitable for people with more complex mental health needs or learning difficulties as it requires structured sessions.
  • It involves confronting your emotions and anxieties; You may experience initial periods when anxious or emotionally uncomfortable.
  • It focuses on the individual’s ability to change himself (his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors), which does not address broader problems in systems or families that often have a significant impact on the health and well-being of an individual.

Some critics also argue that because this therapy only addresses current problems and focuses on specific issues, it does not address the possible underlying causes of mental health conditions, such as an unhappy childhood.

Website | + posts

Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.