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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Mental health should be a top priority for any individual. For many of us, we may not understand why we think a certain way. For example, why is something deeply affecting me when it seems to not be affecting others? Or why do I keep having the same arguments with my family members? Or a commonly asked question, how can I improve my mental health and develop healthier thinking patterns? The truth of the matter is that we all have different backgrounds and upbringings. We have all had different past experiences that still have the power to affect us each day. This is where cognitive behavior therapy comes into play.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a systematic approach for identifying, managing and resolving psychological challenges and mental health issues. This client focused therapy relies on sound scientific research and evidence-based practices. This therapy strives to understand present difficulties through carefully analyzing previously unidentified or misunderstood thought processes and behavioral habits. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, actually works best for short-term problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy work is available for people of all ages and backgrounds and proves to be highly successful even after a few sessions.

The Cognitive Part of CBT Explained

The goal of cognitive therapy is to empower people to become their own therapists. This is done by using tools and strategies to evaluate thought processes, manage problematic behaviors and make progress towards goals. For example, helping clients overcome anxiety disorders or eating disorders is a challenge for any therapist. This is possible if the therapist approaches anxiety from a positive angle and scientific perspective. Cognitive behavioral therapy correctly addresses crystallized beliefs and thought processes in order to influence decisions and actions.

First, a therapist will help clients learn new ways to change old thinking habits and patterns. For example, those who are always expecting the worst to happen will continue to influence and elicit negative outcomes. Therapists will help clients condition their minds to respond differently to events and to avoid toxic cognitive cycles. Some effective techniques include using slow talking and rational self-statement as well as stopping automatic negative thinking.

The Behavioral Part of CBT Explained

Understanding behavioral therapy is a crucial part of cognitive behavioural therapy. Focused and self-aware cognition will increase individual discipline and determination. Paying attention to what is rational and constructive will help clients stop seeing things from irrationally skewed perspectives. The behavioral aspect of CBT therapy is when clients apply what they have learned into real-life and everyday situations. Attempting to change behaviors is only possible at the same time or directly after cognitive therapy. This is because people need awareness, emotional skills and proven strategies to begin acting differently.

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Emotional control is established through relaxation and de-stressing tools. One popular method is a personal mantra that is quietly repeated, such as the phrase “calm blue ocean,” or a simple action, such as one minute of controlled, meditative breathing. One popular technique for people experiencing depression encourages them to repeatedly tell themselves that minor failures and disappointments are a normal and healthy part of life.

Mental Health Conditions and Disorders

An individual does not need to be diagnosed with a specific mental health condition, disorder, or a mental illness to seek the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist. CBT aims to help any individual who is in need of curing their short term problems or symptoms that are amplifying their mental illness. The tools and coping skills that are often recommended can be helpful for varying degrees of mental health conditions. However, there are some specific mental health disorders and illnesses that can benefit from cognitive behavioral work. These may include but are not limited to:

-Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
-Eating disorders
-Clinically diagnosed mental illness
-Chronic pain
-Chronic illness
-Anxiety disorder
-Generalized anxiety disorder
-Panic disorder
-Major depression
-Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
-Substance use disorders
-Bipolar disorder or other mood disorders

Personal Techniques

Due to health insurance, location, or scheduling issues, not everyone can find, afford or qualify for a licensed therapist and attend therapy sessions to help them. However, there are many ways for anyone to incorporate CBT tools into their lives to improve their mental health. For instance, a therapist might encourage a pessimistic person to identify and write down what things are in and out of their control. They can then work on what is within their control through measurable goals. Anyone can do this at home as long as they are self-aware and self-determined.

First, identify and describe problems in order to brainstorm solutions. Journaling and talking with a mature and professional friend can help any discover the roots of problems and their potential answers. Write positive, self-statements to challenge and counteract negative thoughts. Repeat your self-statements whenever you find yourself feeling negative emotions or thinking negative, hopeless and critical thoughts. Find new opportunities to repeat positive thought patterns, such as every time you enter an unfamiliar room or meet a new person.

Keep in mind that a quieter and more relaxed brain will make it easier to practice therapeutic skills and to form habits. Taking time to work on yourself will help cure emotional distress, promote stress management, improve personal relationships, and so much more. Every psychological symptom has an individualized approach and customized strategy that will work with appreciate levels of patience and determination. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an extremely important branch of therapy and counseling.

Related Resources:

5 Hallmarks of Dialectical Based Therapy
5 Techniques Counselors Use to Help Treat Behavioral Addiction
What is a Licensed Counselor?
Are the Kids Alright? Young People and Mental Health