What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a type of therapy used by many therapists, but what does it mean exactly? It is a treatment for anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Simply put it's based on the belief that our thoughts have a huge impact on our behaviors and emotions.
If you think about it we are always talking to ourselves throughout the day. Whether it is making a mental to-do list, assessing various situations, or having to make a decision. We all have an internal dialogue.The problem with this always occurring discussion is that we become used to it and often don't realize the things we are saying to ourselves. Sometimes the things we think are positive, but unfortunately for those with anxiety or depression these thoughts can quickly become overly negative and disparaging.
Many people don't understand why they become anxious or depressed and think that it occurs at random or because of something external or environmental. Much of the time we begin to worry about something and then we convince ourselves that our worry thought is true or a fact.
For example if you were to walk into a crowded room and suddenly became anxious, you may have thought to yourself "Everyone is staring at me" or "I look funny and embarrassing" or "No one wants me here". Each of these thoughts is enough to cause some anxiety and discomfort. Once we believe these negative thoughts are true our behaviors following the thought become influenced.
Using the scenario where one is walking into a crowded room , if they were to have the thought " No one wants me here" they may choose to leave which may cause consequences depending on what they missed out on.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on having the individual work on recording their thoughts in order to increase an awareness of what they are saying to themselves on a daily basis. Once the thought is recorded other things such as connected emotions, situations, and consequences can also be recorded to identify triggers to thoughts and behaviors.
Here is a sample log in CBT format:
Situation: Walking into a crowded party
Thought: "No one likes me here"
Emotions: Anxiety, Sadness
Behavior: I left the room and missed out on the party.
Once you have mastered the ability to record negative thoughts and their correlated situations you can start to develop a positive counter statement. A counter statement is a more rational and positive thought which is meant to replace the negative thought. Using our scenario from before positive counter statements may look like:
"No one has said they don't like me"
"Other people's thoughts are none of my business"
"People are looking around naturally not in a negative way towards me"
By creating the positive counter statement we often can reduce the negative symptoms associated with the negative thought such as anxiety or sadness. Over time we can become experts at recognizing and changing negative thought patterns.