Published on June 1, 2022

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

by Psych Times Staff
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a therapy that is based on helping people challenge and change their perceptions and behaviors. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is changing the way people think about their environment, and CBT has a big emphasis on helping people change the way they behave.

The ultimate goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is re-learning. People identify any cognitive distortions they are using in their thinking, in order to help them see reality more clearly.

There are some cognitive behavioral therapists that feel that changing the way a person perceives or views the environment, or world, will then eventually change the way they are feeling. Other cognitive behavioral therapists think that it does not matter what a person feels or how they think, rather, if they can change the way that they behave and act they will then, in turn, change the way they think and feel.

For example, my therapy (RIP-R), which is used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Substance Use Disorder, is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The goal is to help a person resist or reduce the amount of compulsive behaviors that they are doing. We help the individual to use certain tricks (cognitive work), in order to resist performing the unproductive, compulsive behaviors (behavioral work).

By changing the behaviors. The person is able to face what they fear and experience the uncomfortable feelings they did not think they could handle; and have an opportunity to see that they were, in fact, able to handle the situation.

This re-learning process, in time, will lessen the intensity of the obsessions. When enough compulsions are resisted, the person will be able to see the obsession more realistically, rather than see their obsession as being exaggerated and catastrophic and dangerous.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered the “gold standard” of therapy for clinical psychological disorders, such as, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. CBT is also strongly advised for the treatment of addictions and depression.

If you are seeking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you would want to begin by searching for a therapist that is trained in this type of therapy.

Once you begin treatment, you will work collaboratively with your therapist in order to identify your thoughts and what distortions you are using.

CBT therapists always work as “partners” with their clients. A good metaphor, is to imagine you and your therapist are detectives trying to solve a puzzle together. Research has shown that the trusting relationship you have with your therapist is the most important indicator as to whether or not you will improve. This relationship is way more important than any strategy the therapist will be using.

Once you have established this secure rapport, you will investigate what behaviors you are doing that are causing problems in your life. Then, you will begin learning how to challenge and change those thoughts and behaviors.

The difficult symptoms that brought you into therapy should begin to lessen and you should start experiencing some relief and improvement in functioning, and overall quality of life.

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