What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or “CBT” is an integration of two different therapies, Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Therapy. CBT is a generic term that refers to a broad combination of these two therapies. It’s also one of the most recommended and scientifically proven therapies.

Behavior Therapy

Behavior Therapy or “BT” is the first empirically based therapy. That is to say, that its treatments were not based solely upon theory, but instead on pure scientific research about how animals and humans learned to react emotionally and behaviorally. This research showed how emotions, situations and behavior interacted with each other. To this day Behavior Therapy continues to offer some of the most effective forms of anxiety treatment.

The behavioral aspect of CBT addresses how behaviors influence mood. The behavioral approach emphasizes changing how we behave in order to change our emotions. The theory being that by increasing behaviors that improve mood and decreasing behaviors that degrade mood it will improve one’s mood (emotions) and improve one’s thoughts (thinking).

Cognitive Therapy

“Cognitive” literally means to know or to think. The cognitive or thinking aspect of CBT addresses how thinking influences mood. The cognitive approach emphasizes directly changing how we think in order to improve our mood. The theory being that by modifying one’s thinking, a person can improve the way he or she feels and ultimately change behavior.

CBT Interventions

Identifying and engaging in enjoyable activities, such as social activities and exercise.

Setting realistic goals by identifying goals, identifying the start point, identifying the steps that are required to achieve each goal, and starting the first step.

Learning how to solve problems through assertiveness.

Communication skills intervention, that targets assertiveness and conflict resolution skills.

Learning how to manage stress and anxiety (e.g., learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, coping self-talk such as “I’ve done this before, just take deep breaths,” and distraction).

Identifying situations that are often avoided. A person may not go to a family function because their estranged father may also be there is an avoidance behavior. The treatment may be to gradually approach the feared situation.

Cognitive interventions that targets irrational thoughts and false beliefs. By labeling and dissecting an irrational thought or false belief, you can take away some of its power. (minimization, catastrophizing, grandiosity, personalization, paranoia, delusional thinking, etc.…)

Identifying and challenging negative thoughts (e.g., “Things never work out for me”)

Keeping track of feelings, thoughts and behaviors to become aware of symptoms and to make it easier to change thoughts and behaviors.

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