What is Cognitive Therapy Counseling?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.

 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

 

CBT can be a very helpful tool ― either alone or in combination with other therapies ― in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. CBT can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.

 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat a wide range of issues. It's often the preferred type of psychotherapy because it can quickly help you identify and cope with specific challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way.

 

CBT is a useful tool to address emotional challenges. For example, it may help you:

  • Manage symptoms of mental illness

  • Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms

  • Treat a mental illness when medications aren't a good option

  • Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations

  • Identify ways to manage emotions

  • Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate

  • Cope with grief or loss

  • Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence

  • Cope with a medical illness

  • Manage chronic physical symptoms

 

Mental health disorders that may improve with CBT include: 

  • Depression

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Phobias

  • PTSD

  • Sleep disorders

  • Eating disorders

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Substance use disorders

  • Bipolar disorders

  • Schizophrenia

  • Sexual disorders

 

What you can expect?

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be done one-on-one or in groups with family members or with people who have similar issues. Online resources are available that may make participating in CBT possible, especially if you live in an area with few local mental health resources.

CBT often includes:

  • Learning about your mental health condition

  • Learning and practicing techniques such as relaxation, coping, resilience, stress management and assertiveness

 

Your first therapy session

 

At your first session, your therapist will typically gather information about you and ask what concerns you'd like to work on. The therapist will likely ask you about your current and past physical and emotional health to gain a deeper understanding of your situation. Your therapist may discuss whether you might benefit from other treatment as well, such as medications.

The first session is also an opportunity for you to interview your therapist to see if he or she will be a good match for you. Make sure you understand:

  • His or her approach

  • What type of therapy is appropriate for you

  • The goals of your treatment

  • The length of each session

  • How many therapy sessions you may need

 

It might take a few sessions for your therapist to fully understand your situation and concerns, and to determine the best course of action. If you don't feel comfortable with the first therapist you see, try someone else. Having a good "fit" with your therapist can help you get the most benefit from CBT.

During CBT Your therapist will encourage you to talk about your thoughts and feelings and what's troubling you. Don't worry if you find it hard to open up about your feelings. Your therapist can help you gain more confidence and comfort.

 

CBT generally focuses on specific problems, using a goal-oriented approach. As you go through the therapy process, your therapist may ask you to do homework — activities, reading or practices that build on what you learn during your regular therapy sessions — and encourage you to apply what you're learning in your daily life.

 

Your therapist's approach will depend on your particular situation and preferences. Your therapist may combine CBT with another therapeutic approach — for example, interpersonal therapy, which focuses on your relationships with other people.

 

Steps in CBT

CBT typically includes these steps:

  • Identify troubling situations or conditions in your life. These may include such issues as a medical condition, divorce, grief, anger or symptoms of a mental health disorder. You and your therapist may spend some time deciding what problems and goals you want to focus on.

  • Become aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these problems. Once you've identified the problems to work on, your therapist will encourage you to share your thoughts about them. This may include observing what you tell yourself about an experience (self-talk), your interpretation of the meaning of a situation, and your beliefs about yourself, other people and events. Your therapist may suggest that you keep a journal of your thoughts.

  • Identify negative or inaccurate thinking. To help you recognize patterns of thinking and behavior that may be contributing to your problem, your therapist may ask you to pay attention to your physical, emotional and behavioral responses in different situations.

  • Reshape negative or inaccurate thinking. Your therapist will likely encourage you to ask yourself whether your view of a situation is based on fact or on an inaccurate perception of what's going on. This step can be difficult. You may have long-standing ways of thinking about your life and yourself. With practice, helpful thinking and behavior patterns will become a habit and won't take as much effort. (By Mayo Clinic)

Virtual CBT Therapy (Online CBT Therapy)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a tool used to treat a number of mental and physical health issues, and due to its flexibility, CBT online offers many of the benefits found in the face-to-face model. CBT is widely available online, so people experiencing unwanted symptoms linked to anxiety, depression, and other conditions should view it as a viable option to treat their overall well-being.