The Effectiveness of CBT
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widespread mental health treatments used today. If you’ve been following us at BregmanMD you may be familiar with it. Still, too few people are familiar with the specifics of CBT. Here I’ll try to illuminate just how it works.
In the 1960’s a psychiatrist, Aaron Beck, developed a new approach combining the fields of behavioral and cognitive therapy – hence the name. Previous therapies (Freudian psychotherapy for example) focused on the cause of psychological distress. The dynamic nature of CBT is that it focuses not just on cause but also solutions. It was first developed to help depression sufferers but is now used for anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and more. Learning to examine thoughts while applying healthy coping skills can reverse dysfunctional behavior and hampers development of new ones. Patients are taught to modify the relationship between thoughts and behaviors. In this way it can provide quicker recovery and a mental tool kit to prevent relapse.
Take Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) for example. ERP is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy used for anxiety disorders. Suppose I worry about light switches – walking past one I lift my arm to wave at someone and suddenly the thought arises… “Maybe my arm hit the switch. I have to check multiple times to make sure it’s still off.” In CBT/ERP I would examine the thought, recognize its irrationality, and then challenge it by changing my behavior. If my usual compulsive behavior would be to check the switch incessantly, then for ERP I would refrain from doing so and let the anxiety pass (which it does over time). My mind eventually replaces the habit of ruminating with a propensity towards reason. In other cases, like depression, one may learn to break the habit of negative self-talk or catastrophizing.
To know if CBT is the best path, the first step is consulting a mental health professional. After a diagnosis the doctor will determine if CBT is the correct treatment . This can take place in person or through telepsychiatry services.
Patient and doctor then discuss troubling thought patterns and how they affect behavior. Inquiry about a patient’s past is necessary for diagnosing but the substance of CBT is in the present. Can we recognize our troubling thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as they happen? Are these things rational? If they are, what sort of decisive action can reasonably solve the problem? Like with mindfulness the emphasis is on here and now – the moment in which worrisome thoughts arise. There are a number of similarities between CBT and mindfulness/meditation. We cultivate mindfulness through meditation and implement it in our daily lives. So it goes with CBT. Therapy sessions are enlightening but the techniques are meant to follow patients off the couch.
Going against deeply ingrained thought patterns can be uncomfortable for people with mental illness. I’m not sure where this platitude started but it rings true here: “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.” The unpleasantness arises because thought distortions are internalized and personalized. It can be easy to conflate our thoughts and emotions with our identity. CBT gives us a way to step back and analyze the rationality of our thoughts. The more we do it the less discomfort is suffered and we become liberated from our negative patterns.
If you suffer from a psychological disorder and you think CBT can help, go ahead and make an appointment to discuss treatment. It may be the answer you’re looking for.
Note: For assistance with behavioral health issues, contact us at 305-740-3340 or schedule an appointment with BregmanMD.
Mayo Clinic (2019, March) Cognitive behavioral therapy. Retrieved on April 13, 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
Taibbi, Robert (2019, March) Quick Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Psychology Today. Retrieved on April 14, 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201903/quick-guide-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-cbt
Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 1). Cognitive behavioral therapy. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:53, April 15, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cognitive_behavioral_therapy&oldid=890435686