Have you noticed that doctors and psychiatrists are more than too happy to prescribe psychotropic drugs today even though they often come with dangerous side effects? Surely there’s a better, and safer way to manage and treat stress and brain disorders?
There is cognitive behavioral therapy. According to the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists, cognitive behavioral therapy (often just called CBT) is a popular form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the importance of underlying thoughts in determining how we feel and act. CBT is considered to be one of the most successful forms of psychotherapy. It’s become the focus of hundreds of research studies.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapists offer patients a valuable perspective. It helps them uncover, investigate and change their own thought patterns and reactions since these are really what cause our perceptions and determine our behaviors. This helps them improve their quality of life and manage stress.
One of the most surprising core principles of CBT is that external situations are not responsible for our poor moods and problems. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. How we react to our life’s events and the things we tell ourselves which are all in our control play a greater role in the quality of life. This is great news. We now hold the power! The power to change! CBT gives us the tools to learn to change the way we think, feels and in turn change the way we handle challenges in life. We can better manage our thoughts that make us feel anxious, isolated, depressed, and prone to emotional eating. Instead, we’re better able to react without fear in a way that makes us feel the happiest in the long run.
Proven Benefits of CBT
The Journal of Cognitive Therapy and Research identified 269 studies that supported the use of CBT for the following problems:
- substance abuse disorders
- schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
- depression and dysthymia
- manic depression/bipolar disorder
- anxiety disorders
- somatoform disorders
- eating disorders
- sleep disorders, including insomnia
- personality disorders
- anger and aggression
- criminal behaviors
- general stress and distress due to general medical conditions
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- muscle pains and tension
- pregnancy complications and female hormonal conditions
The strongest support for CBT was found in treating anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders, bulimia, anger control problems and general stress. CBT shows higher response rates than comparison treatments.
1. Lowers Symptoms of Depression
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients overcome symptoms of depression like hopelessness, anger, and low motivation, and lowers their risk of relapses in the future. CBT relieves depression because it changes thoughts that normally fuel the vicious cycles of negativity. Research published in the journal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood Disorders found that CBT is so protective against acute episodes of depression that it can be used along with, or in place of, antidepressant medications.
2. Reduces Anxiety
Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, support strong evidence regarding CBT treatment for anxiety-related disorders. These include panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. CBT has proved a great natural remedy for anxiety through its various combinations of psychoeducation, self-monitoring of symptoms, somatic exercises, cognitive restructuring (for example disconfirmation), image and in vivo exposure to feared stimuli (exposure therapy), weaning from ineffective safety signals, and relapse prevention.
3. Helps Treat Eating Disorders
CBT has been found to help address the underlying psychopathology of eating disorders and interfere with the maintenance of unhealthy body weights, improve impulse control to help stop binge eating or purging, reduce feelings of isolation, and help patients become more comfortable around “trigger foods” or situations using exposure therapy. CBT has become the best practice in treating bulimia nervosa and 60% successful with anorexia patients.
4. Reduces Addictive Behaviors and Substance Abuse
CBT has proven successful for treating cannabis, opioid, and alcohol dependence as well as smoking and gambling addictions. Taught ‘coping skills’ through CBT have proven to be highly effective in reducing nicotine relapses, superiorly to other therapeutic approaches.
5. Helps Improve Self-Esteem and Confidence
Even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness we know that the majority of people have negative and destructive ‘self-talk’. CBT can help replace these thoughts with positive expectations and affirmations to increase self-esteem, handle stress, improve relationships and increase motivation to step outside of your comfort zone.
Facts About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Originally created to help people suffering from depression. Today used to improve and manage various types of mental disorders and symptoms.
CBT techniques are beneficial for just about everyone.
The term cognitive behavioral therapy is considered a general term for a classification of therapeutic approaches that have similarities, including rational emotive behavior therapy, rational behavior therapy, rational living therapy, cognitive therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.
332 medical studies and 16 quantitative reviews have examined the effects of CBT.
CBT is actually capable of positively changing physical structures in the brain.
CBT can work quickly, helping patients feel better and experience lessened symptoms within a short period of time.
Patients often have to complete “homework” assignments on their own between therapy sessions, which is one of the reasons benefits can be experienced so quickly.
CBT is very interactive and collaborative. The therapist listens, teaches and encourages, while the patient is open and expressive.
Clients can continue to work on exploring CBT concepts, using techniques they’ve learned, journaling and reading to help prolong benefits and manage symptoms after their formal therapy sessions have concluded.
How Cognitive Behavior Therapy Works
CBT recognises consistent negative thoughts patterns as they continuously rise up, to replace them with healthier, more empowering alternatives. The power of CBT lies within the patient. The success of CBT is dependent upon how willing the patient is to explore his or her own thoughts, stay open-minded, complete homework assignments and practice patience during the CBT process. CBT challenges the patient to practice ‘rational self-counseling” whereby the client learns the skills to manage his or her own reactions and responses to situations to change their surroundings.
CBT is unique and effective because of its:
Rational approach: CBT aims to identify and use facts, through ‘rational thinking’. CBT encourages patients to examine their own perceptions and beliefs to determine if they’re in fact realistic or an emotional and behavioral reaction that has become learned, due to incorrect assumptions.
Law of entropy and impermanence: Have you heard the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” This is called the law of entropy. MRI scans show the human brain creates and sustains neural synapses (connections) between frequent thoughts and emotions, so if you practice positive thinking your brain will actually make it easier to feel happier in the future. CBT rests on these practices.
Accepting unpleasant or painful emotions: Learning to accept difficult thoughts or emotions is important. Therapists work to help clients maintain a clear head and stay calm when faced with undesirable situations. Getting upset generally, makes us feel even worse about our situations. Instead of adding self-blame, anger, frustration, sadness or disappointment to already-tough feelings, CBT teaches patients to calmly accept a problem without judgment in order to not make it even worse.
Questioning and expressing: Cognitive behavioral therapists ask many questions. This is to give patients different perspectives to see their situations more ‘roundly’, clearly and realistically to uncover how they really feel.
Specific agendas and techniques: Each CBT session has a specific goal, concept or technique focused on. Sessions are not simply talking out your feelings, only to pay a set of ears, hundreds of dollars, with little to no agenda or results. Each CBT sessions works on providing the skills to better handle life’s situations to be applied when most needed.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Other Types of Psychotherapy
CBT is a type of psychotherapy. This means it involves open communication between patient and therapist. So what makes CBT stand apart from the rest? Well, the truth is, many times there’s an overlap between different forms of psychotherapy. A therapist can draw upon a range of techniques to best help their clients improve and reach their goals.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, here is how CBT differs from other popular forms of therapy:
CBT vs. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT and CBT are the most similar to psychotherapy approaches. However, DBT relies heavily upon accepting uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and use tools like mindfulness guided meditation to achieve a balance between acceptance and change.
CBT vs. Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is often used to help treat eating disorders, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Calming techniques and small series of “exposures” to triggers points (fears) are delivered in order to become less anxious about outcomes.
CBT vs. Interpersonal Therapy: Family, friends, co-workers, media, and community are heavily used in interpersonal therapy to help patients evaluate social interactions and recognize negative patterns (such as isolation, blame, jealousy or aggression).
How to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Your Own
What are your current obstacles?: What’s really causing you stress, unhappiness, and unease? This is the time to be brutally honest with yourself. Are you feeling resentful toward someone, fearful of failure or worried about being rejected socially in some way? Do you have persistent anxiety, symptoms of depression or are struggling to forgive someone for a past event? Once you can recognise your obstacles you’re more aware and have the power to overcoming it.
Try “thought recording”: Using a journal, or voice recording every time you identify recurring destructive thoughts can be very successful. Re-read your entries and really dig deeper to ask yourself why am I thinking these thoughts? How is this impacting myself currently? Are your beliefs accurate or assumptions that are negatively impacting your life?
Form patterns and recognize your triggers: Ask yourself what situations make you a certain negative emotion. When are you most likely to feel anxious, upset, critical or sad? Once you’re aware of these patterns you can start to break the cycle.
Notice how things are always changing: Feelings come and go. This is called impermanence. Understanding that fear, anger and other strong emotions are only temporary can help you stay calm in the heat of the moment.
“Put yourself in their shoes”: The age old saying. Think about how the other person is feeling when viewing the situation. Considering others’ perspectives, questions your assumption and helps you view situations rationally, clearly and as realistically as possible. Often we miss pieces of the puzzle before retaliating which we end up regretting later.
Thank yourself and be patient: Let’s be clear. This isn’t a quick fix. This is a process that needs to be ongoing for the rest of your life. There is no finish line, just how you go about living your daily life. So, give yourself credit for putting effort into facing your problems directly, and try to view “slip-ups” as inevitable parts of the journey and learning process. Remember, there’s always ways to improve, feel happier, and treat others and yourself better, so practice being patient.
Let’s recap. CBT is beneficial for just about everyone who applies its approaches. It can lower symptoms of depressions, reduce anxiety, treat eating disorders, reduce addictive behaviors and substance abuse, and help improve self-esteem and confidence. Anyone can practice CBT by defining current obstacles, thought recording, forming patterns and recognising your triggers. Noticing how things are always changing, putting yourself in others’ shoes, and thanking yourself for being patient will help you along your journey.
That’s it. Why not try Cognitive Behavior Therapy today
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