People often experience feelings or thoughts that compound or reinforce faulty beliefs. Such unhealthy beliefs can cause problematic behaviors that affect several areas of life, including family, work, academic and romantic relationships. Therefore, CBT treatment generally encompasses efforts to change such thinking patterns and beliefs. Some of the strategies used to achieve that are:
#1: Identify negative thoughts
It’s essential to learn how feelings, thoughts, and situations contribute to maladaptive behaviors. The process can be challenging, particularly for individuals who struggle with introspection. Nevertheless, it can ultimately lead to insights and self-discovery essential in the CBT treatment process.
#2: Practice new skills
It is crucial to begin practicing new skills that can later be put to use in real-world scenarios. For instance, an individual with a substance use disorder may start practicing new coping skills and rehearsing ways to deal with or avoid social situations that could trigger a relapse.
#3: Goal setting
Goal setting can play a critical role in recovery from a mental problem and help you make changes to improve your life and mental health. During a cognitive behavioral therapy session, a therapist can help with goal-setting skills by teaching how to identify and set SMART – specific, measurable, attainable relevant, time-based – goals, distinguish between long- and short-term goals, and focus on the journey equally as the end outcome.
#4: Problem Solving
Acquiring problem-solving skills can significantly help you identify and solve problems that ascend from life stressors, both small and big, and minimize the negative impact of physical and psychological illness. Problem-solving in cognitive behavioral therapy typically involves five steps:
- Identifying a problem
- Producing a list of possible solutions
- Evaluating the weaknesses and strengths of each potential solution
- Selecting a solution to implement
- Implementing the solution
Self-monitoring is a crucial part of cognitive behavioral therapy. It involves tracking experiences, behaviors, or symptoms over time and sharing them with your therapist. Self-checking can provide your therapist with the necessary information required to offer the best treatment. For instance, for eating disorders, self-monitoring may encompass keeping track of eating habits and any feelings or thoughts that went along with consuming that snack or meal.
#6: Progress Gradually
In most cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is a gradual process that allows an individual to take incremental steps towards behavior and mental change. For instance, somebody with social anxiety may simply start by imagining anxiety-provoking social settings. Next, they may initiate practicing conversations with family, friends, and acquaintances.
By gradually working toward a greater goal, the process seems less intimidating, and the goal becomes easier to achieve.
#7: Guided discovery and questioning
By probing the assumptions you have about your current situation or yourself, your therapist can help you learn how to challenge these assumptions and consider diverse viewpoints.
Journaling or diary work is a crucial part of cognitive behavioral therapy. Your therapist may ask you to note down negative thoughts, feelings, or beliefs that come up during a specific time and the positive ones you can replace them with.
The therapist may enquire about what you tell yourself regarding a particular experience or situation and may also challenge you to replace critical or negative self-talk with constructive and compassionate self-talk.
#10: Cognitive restructuring
Cognitive restructuring refers to looking at any cognitive distortions affecting your emotions and thoughts — such as catastrophizing, jumping to conclusions, or black-and-white thinking— and begin to unravel them.
#11: Thought recording
In this cognitive behavioral therapy technique, your therapist may ask you to develop unbiased evidence backing your negative belief and proof against it. Next, you may be asked to use the evidence to establish a more realistic thought.
#12: Positive activities
Getting involved in positive or rewarding activities every day can help boost overall positivity and improve your mood. For example, you are buying fresh flowers for yourself, taking a picnic lunch to the park, or watching your favorite movie.
#13: Situation exposure
This cognitive behavioral therapy strategy entails listing things or situations that cause distress, in order of the distress level they create, and gradually exposing yourself to those situations or things till they lead to less negative feelings. Systematic desensitization is an identical approach where you learn relaxation skills that can help you cope with unwarranted feelings in a difficult situation.
Remember that not all cognitive behavioral therapy treatments utilize all of these techniques or strategies. Instead, the therapist and client/patient collaboratively work together to understand the problem and devise an appropriate treatment strategy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping people learn to be their therapists. Through exercises in the CBT session and “homework” exercises independent of sessions, clients/patients can develop coping skills. They can learn to change their own problematic emotions, thinking, and behavior.
CBT psychotherapists focus on what is happening in the patient’s current life, rather than what has steered up to their complications. Indeed, some information about one’s history is required. However, the focus is predominantly on moving forward to cultivate more effective ways of coping with life.
How Does CBT Work?
Some kinds of psychotherapy emphasize gazing into the past to attain an understanding of current feelings. In contrast, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on present beliefs and thoughts.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals with numerous problems where beliefs and thoughts are critical. It particularly emphasizes the need to identify, challenge, and alter how an individual views a situation.
According to cognitive behavioral therapy, people’s thinking pattern is like wearing a pair of glasses that makes them see the world in a particular way. CBT makes us more conscious of how these thought patterns produce our reality and decide how we behave.
Changing Perceptions & Distortions
It allows people to uncover new ways of looking at things and circumstances. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to transform ways of behaving and thinking that stand in the way of progressive and positive outcomes. For instance, when an individual is facing depression, their interpretations and perceptions become distorted.
A distorted perception can make somebody more susceptible to:
- jumping to conclusions
- a negative mindset
- seeing things as either bad or good with no middle ground in between
- mistakenly seeing situations as catastrophic
If people learn negative or fearful ways of thinking, they can automatically begin to think in this way. CBT emphasizes challenging these automatic thoughts and equating them with reality.
The distress of an individual can decrease if they alter the way they think and perceive things. Moreover, they will be able to function in a way that’s more likely to benefit them and other people surrounding them.
As the person gains new skills, it becomes simpler for them to solve issues constructively. This can ultimately reduce stress, risk a negative mood, and allow them to have more control in life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Example: Dental Phobia
An individual with dental phobia, e.g., fear of going to the dentist because he/she believes they will experience extreme pain or even death by getting a dental procedure. This phobia perhaps may be a result of a previous negative experience or childhood fear.
A cognitive behavioral therapy psychotherapist will work with the person to tackle the distorted and inaccurate thinking, which states, “Because I had severe pain with a root canal, all dental visits will be painful.”
Together, the therapist and the client can devise a plan to overcome the fear of dental treatments and see it in a new way.