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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mental Health disorders

What is cognitive behavioral therapy? Read on to learn more about CBT, how CBT helps with mental health, and the drawbacks of CBT. 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is psychotherapy or talk therapy. This means that sessions primarily consist of open talking between the individual and their therapist. CBT is focused on helping to better understand how thoughts and beliefs can affect actions.

Overall, participating in cognitive behavioral therapy involves improving the connection between thoughts and actions to address issues healthily at a holistic level.1

cognitive behavioral therapy

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Types of CBT

There are several different types of cognitive behavioral therapy. Although each is similar in that it works to better the connection between thoughts and actions for healthy improvement in daily life, there are a few differences that set them apart. As a result, different types of CBT may be better suited for treating certain conditions over others. Some of the different types of cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)

There is also a new, emerging form of cognitive behavioral therapy known as DCBT or digital cognitive behavioral therapy.2 DCBT has the same structure as traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, but it is done online or through apps. Digital cognitive behavioral therapy allows for greater access to mental healthcare with the same level of confidentiality and support as in-person sessions.3

Core Principles of CBT

Despite their differences and structures, all types of cognitive behavioral therapy are designed around the same core principles. The core principle of cognitive behavioral therapy is mindfulness. The exact type of mindfulness encouraged in this form of psychotherapy revolves around better understanding and awareness of how emotions play a role in actions.

How Does CBT Work?

Cognitive behavioral therapy encourages individuals to think about their mental health differently. This involves understanding how negative self-talk and thoughts can lead to unhealthy behaviors and may worsen certain mental conditions. As a result, cognitive behavioral therapy works to instead introduce healthy mindsets and coping techniques.

Techniques Used in CBT

One main technique in cognitive behavioral therapy is restructuring, which may also be known as reframing. Cognitive restructuring involves recognizing and addressing negative thought patterns that make it difficult to enjoy daily life. Once the individual is aware of a negative thought pattern, they can work alongside their therapist to develop healthy patterns. 

There are also other types of mental practices used in cognitive behavioral therapy. This includes guided discovery and other mind exercises that work to rewire negative thought patterns to produce healthier thoughts and behaviors. Some forms of cognitive behavioral therapy may also include exposure therapy. This CBT technique is often considered to be most useful for phobias, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.4

What Conditions Does CBT Treat?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a diverse treatment method that can benefit various conditions. It can even be useful in cases with no underlying disorder, but psychological distress is present.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective as a single treatment method and in combination with other treatment methods, including medication-assisted therapy. As a result, it is used to treat several different conditions. Some of the conditions that can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy as a form of treatment include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Eating disorders

How Is CBT Different Than Other Therapies?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is different in that it is a problem-oriented therapy. This means that a current problem is presented, and the sessions are dedicated to solving that problem. Other therapies typically deal with past experiences. While cognitive behavioral therapy can often consider experiences in the past, the primary focus is to find a solution for problems occurring in the present.

Because of this structure, cognitive behavioral therapy is often paired with other therapies when treating conditions such as substance use disorders or post-traumatic stress disorders. This provides a multifaceted form of treatment that addresses both the past and present. 

What Does a CBT Session Look Like?

What cognitive behavioral therapy looks like can depend on the type of CBT. For example, acceptance and commitment therapy is one type of cognitive behavioral therapy. However, unlike other types, it has no set structure. Instead, sessions occur to guide an individual through different phases of growth and mindfulness.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy, however, is much more structured. It has a high level of time commitment of a few hours a week for around a year, and sessions are conducted in a certain way. Usually, this involves free talk between the patient and therapist with “homework” assigned after each session.

However, despite their differences, all types of cognitive behavioral therapy are still considered psychotherapy. This means that the main mode of treatment during each session will be a conversation between the individual and their therapist. 

Benefits of CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most utilized forms of psychotherapy because of its benefits. This therapy treatment is versatile and can be used to address various concerns while allowing for it to provide many different benefits. Some of the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • Improves coping skills
  • Helps to develop self-esteem
  • Prevents relapse
  • Develops rational thought processes
  • Helps in anger management
CBT sessions

Drawbacks of CBT

Although cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly effective form of psychotherapy, it is not perfect. While it can be a beneficial treatment option for many people, cognitive behavioral therapy has a few drawbacks that can make it a less efficient option for some people. In some instances, CBT can be combined with another type of treatment to remedy these drawbacks. In other cases, a different treatment option may be needed altogether. Some of the drawbacks of cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • Relies on the will of the patient
  • Feels more anxious and stressed before feeling better
  • Requires extra work between sessions
  • Focuses only on current problems
  • Do not help individuals with learning difficulties

Seek Help Today

If you’re wondering if cognitive behavioral therapy is the right option, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Although they may not specialize in therapy, they can help you decide if cognitive behavioral therapy or other treatment options may be the best choice for you.

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