Everything You Need to Know About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Chicago

cognitive behavioral therapy at Chicago Rehab Center

Finding a therapist can be intimidating enough, but it is even more overwhelming as you come across many unfamiliar acronyms written after their name. One that frequently pops up is CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. Whether you are looking for some extra support or seeking help for a diagnosed mental health condition, CBT treatment— which is based on the notion that our thoughts shape our behavior and reality— may be precisely what is needed.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an amalgamation of two different therapeutic approaches: behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. Cognitive treatment centers on how beliefs and thoughts contribute to negative emotions and actions. Behavioral therapy emphasizes how specific behavioral patterns emerge or originate and how they can be altered to affect mood positively.

Combining these two diverse forms of therapy leads to cognitive behavioral therapya robust, goal-oriented treatment.

Read ahead to learn about everything you must know about cognitive behavioral therapy in Chicago and see whether it can help you or a loved one battling a mental condition.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on treating dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviors through solution-based strategies. CBT incites patients to challenge distorted and unhealthy thoughts to generate new, healthy patterns of behavior. This precise modality was founded on the notion that our thoughts and perceptions shape our behavior. The hope with CBT treatment is that by rewiring cognitive pathways, destructive behaviors can be redirected and changed.

CBT is an empirically supported treatment that has proved to be quite effective, particularly for general stress, anxiety, anger control, and other mental health problems.

Core Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The simple idea behind CBT is that our unique patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving play a significant role in our experiences, both good and bad. As these patterns have such a substantial impact on our experiences, it is believed that modifying these patterns can change our experiences.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the following core principles:

  • Psychological issues are based, partially, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  • Psychological issues are based, partially, on unhelpful or faulty ways of thinking.
  • Individuals suffering from psychological issues can learn better and healthier ways of coping with them, resulting in relieving their symptoms and turning more effective in their lives.

Types of CBT

Cognitive-behavioral therapy encompasses a range of approaches and techniques that address emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These can vary from structured psychotherapies to self-help provisions. There are several particular forms of therapeutic approaches that implicate CBT:

Exposure therapy functional thoughts, emotions, and behaviors through solution-based strategies. CBT incites patients to challenge distorted and unhealthy thoughts to generate new, healthy patterns of behavior. This precise form of Cognitive behavioral therapy beneficial for an individual’s obsessive-compulsive disorder or phobias. In exposure therapy, patients are encouraged to face their fears instead of running away from them.

Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and changing distorted or inaccurate thinking patterns, behaviors, and emotional responses.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – addresses behaviors and thoughts while featuring strategies such as mindfulness and emotional regulation.

Multimodal therapy suggests that mental health problems must be treated by focusing on seven different but interrelated modalities, which are affected, behavior, imagery, sensation, interpersonal factors, cognition, and biological/drug considerations.

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) – focuses on identifying irrational beliefs, challenging those beliefs, and ultimately learning to distinguish and amend those thought patterns.

While each form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) takes a different approach, they all unanimously work to address underlying thought patterns that cause psychological distress.

13 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Strategies & Techniques

young man battling addiction and in need of recovery treatment from Chicago Rehab Center

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

#5: Self-Monitoring

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.

#8: Journaling

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.

#9: Self-talk

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.


a young woman battling addiction in cognitive behavioral therapy at Chicago rehab Center

Can You Do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Yourself? 

Have you ever monitored your donut intake? How about keeping a gratitude journal? Have you observed your sleep or tracked your daily steps? Then you are already employing some of the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy in your everyday life.

What makes CBT effective is not the novelty of the interventions but rather the systematic approach and focus on practice.

You should consider the following guidelines in the case that you decide to pursue self-help cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):

  • The first step is to find a CBT self-help book that resonates with you. Different individuals are drawn to different tones, approaches, levels of detail, etc. If the book seems like a good fit, there is a higher chance that you will stay engaged with it.
  • Select a CBT book that is constructed on solid research. Self-help CBT takes considerable effort and time, so it is imperative that you direct all your energy and efforts towards a program that has solid grounding.
  • You must make space in your schedule to focus on the CBT program adequately. There are worse and better times to tackle therapy of any form. Though there is a decent chance you will always have challenging activities, it is better to avoid times when you are overextended, and the treatment is more likely to get pushed aside.
  • Once you choose a program, be sure to follow it as closely as possible. It is very easy to be tempted to omit parts of a self-help program that we feel would not work or believe we already know. One of the risks is that if you see that a program is not helping, you would not know whether it is because it was not the right choice for you or because you only did two-thirds of it. Therefore, sticking to all the instructions provides us with the best chance to benefit and discover what works for us.

You can find several self-help CBT techniques in books like ‘Feeling Good’ by David Burns or ‘Anxiety and Phobia Workbook’ by Edmund Bourne. Moreover, you can also utilize popular apps like Happify and Headspace. But for a CBT treatment tailored specifically for you and your problems, some physical time in structured therapy is still the best option.

If you are searching for a Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Center, Chicago Rehab Center is here to help.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective?

Several research pieces have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is indeed the most effective treatment for people coping with anxiety and depression. According to a study, cognitive behavioral therapy alone is 50% to 75% effective for overcoming anxiety and depression after five to fifteen modules. However, medication alone can help as well, but there’s no empirical scientific evidence on how it may affect the body and brain in the long run.

Therefore, CBT and medication combined is the most effective treatment for people who have a mental illness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Chicago Takeaway

Cognitive-behavioral therapy places significant emphasis on helping people learn to carry out skills taught to them while in therapy. Through exercises in the CBT session and homework exercises outside of sessions, clients/patients are facilitated to develop coping skills to learn to alter their thinking, problematic behavior, and emotions.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective treatment choice for several psychological problems. If you feel that you may benefit from this kind of treatment, consult with your general physician or contact us to learn more about CBT at Chicago Rehab Center.

FAQ: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap

Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, is the medical director at CRC Institute, where she is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at the Institute. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.

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