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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular forms of therapy used in the mental health treatment field and can be utilized to successfully treat almost any psychiatric diagnosis. Many newer therapies such as DBT & ACT have actually been adapted from CBT.

CBT was developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Dr. Aaron T. Beck. There are over 2000 clinical studies that have shown CBT to be an effective treatment for a wide variety of psychology disorders. The primary theory behind CBT is that the way a person perceives a situation will be a stronger determinant of their reaction (emotional, physical and behavioral) than the actual situation itself. More simply, the way we think about something has a strong impact on how we will end up feeling.

In CBT you will learn how your thoughts, feelings and actions are all connected with one another and how changing your cognitions can impact your emotions and behaviors. CBT is a goal-focused and structured therapy modality. Unlike psychodynamic therapy, it is less concerned about understanding how the past influences your present behavior and more focused on helping you learn to reframe your thoughts so that you can increase positive emotions which will ultimately lead to healthier behaviors.

CBT Model Basics

  1. An event occurs
  2. You perceive the event in a certain way
  3. This leads to an emotional state
  4. The emotional state triggers a behavior
  5. The behavior can maintain that emotional state
  6. The emotional state can impact your thoughts
  7. The pattern starts all over and a cycle forms

Below are some examples of how anxiety and depression play out according to the CBT model above:

Anxiety & CBT

  1. An event occurs – You notice you have a headache
  2. You perceive the event in a certain way – You have a thought that the headache must mean that you have a brain tumor and are going to die
  3. This leads to an emotional state – anxiety and panic
  4. The emotional state triggers a behavior – you start frantically searching the internet for what your headache might mean
  5. The behavior can maintain that emotional state – while you read some things that say it could be harmless, you also end up reading some horror stories of how it could be a brain tumor
  6. The emotional state can impact your thoughts – your anxiety leads to more negative thoughts about your headache being a brain tumor, such as “oh no I have also been tired, this confirms it’s a brain tumor” (instead of recognizing that headaches and tiredness can also be very benign symptoms)
  7. The pattern starts all over and a cycle forms – your new thoughts lead to more anxiety and more anxiety driven behaviors

Depression & CBT

  1. An event occurs – you lose your job
  2. You perceive the event in a certain way – you have the thought that this must mean you are worthless
  3. This leads to an emotional state – depression
  4. The emotional state triggers a behavior – you start to isolate and decide not to look for another job because “you must be worthless” and won’t find another job
  5. The behavior can maintain that emotional state – not finding a job maintains the depression because you don’t get to build up confidence, mastery and connection
  6. The emotional state can impact your thoughts – you start to have thoughts that you are going to be unemployed and alone for ever
  7. The pattern starts all over and a cycle forms – your new thoughts lead to more depression and more depression driven behaviors

Components of CBT Treatment

While there are many different CBT techniques, two of the main components involve targeting your thoughts and behaviors in the form of cognitive restructuring and behavioral modification.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring/reframing involves learning to identify faulty thinking patterns, weighing up evidence for and against your automatic negative thought and creating a new and more rational thought. Automatic negative thoughts often fall into categories known as cognitive distortions such as:

  • All or nothing/black and white thinking
  • Labeling
  • Mental Filter
  • Blaming
  • Fortune Telling
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mind reading
  • Catastrophizing
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Personalization
  • Jumping to conclusions

Behavioral Modification

Behavioral modification incorporates techniques that directly target behaviors knowing that behavioral change can directly impact mood states. You can learn to increase adaptive behaviors and decrease ineffective behaviors through various reinforcement methods. One example of a behavioral change technique in CBT is known as behavioral activation which is often used to help improve the mood of someone struggling with depression. Another type of behavioral change technique involves exposure therapy which is often used to help people struggling with phobias and OCD.

What Issues can CBT help?

Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, trauma, OCD, relationship issues, sexual disorders, phobias, insomnia, Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

If you’re interested in CBT, our CBT therapists in Chicago can help. Contact us today to set up a therapy appointment.

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