a woman talking to a therapist

Mental Health 101: What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is founded on the idea that negative thoughts result in negative emotions, which, in turn, result in self-destructive actions. The main goal of CBT is to help people change their way of thinking in order to change their behavior.

Essentially, CBT therapy could teach you how to stop believing that your negative thoughts are real since false thoughts would lead to negativity that would then drive negative behavior and reinforce those false thoughts.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

Proponents of CBT and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in Westport, CT believes that mental health disorders are not really caused by people, incidents, places or others, but how you react to them. That said, CBT aims to rewire the brain by changing your thought processes to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones. To accomplish this, your therapist would teach you how to think and react differently. Generally speaking, CBT works like this:

  • You will work with a CBT therapist to determine your goals and then figure out the specific behaviors and thoughts that are limiting you or making you increasingly self-destructive.
  • In time, you would learn how to identify your issues, acknowledge them, and then accept them so that you would be in a much better state to address them.
  • Your therapist would give you homework because you would need to know how to apply what you have learned in therapy to your daily life.

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

CBT works because it primarily aims to teach individuals that even when they are not capable of controlling every aspect of every single thing, they are capable of taking control of the way they interpret and handle things specific to their environment. It teaches how to get separation, to some extent, from your negative thoughts. You could acknowledge them, but you need to let them go without them controlling you.

opening up to a therapist

Through CBT, you would learn how to assess negative thoughts so that you could determine proof from reality that refutes or supports those thoughts. Doing so would help you take a more realistic and objective look at the negative thoughts that influence your feelings of depression and anxiety. Becoming mindful of these negative and typically impractical thoughts that negatively affect your mood and feelings, you could then begin to engage in healthier and more realistic thinking patterns.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for You?

CBT was initially developed for treating mild to moderate depression. It does not work well for individuals who are severely depressed, however, because it requires active and voluntary participation. CBT is also commonly used for treating the following mental health disorders:

  • Mood disorders
  • Phobias
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Studies have likewise shown that CBT might be useful for treating eating disorders, smoking, obesity, chronic pain, sleep issues, personality disorders, panic attacks and attention deficit disorder (ADD). If you believe that you suffer from one of these disorders but have yet to be diagnosed or get help, it is best that you consult with an experienced CBT therapist to find out if it is the right treatment for you.