What is Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy anyway?
“Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy” is quite the buzz-word these days, but how many people really know what it is? Often people associate it with treating addiction and substance abuse issues, but it can be used for depression, anxiety, trauma, insomnia, OCD, and many other mental health challenges.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a therapeutic method of learning about our connections between stimulus-thought-emotion-behavior. In other words, something happens to us, we think thoughts about it (often we don’t even know what these are), we have an emotion, and then we behave based on that emotion. This usually happens so fast, we don’t even know we’re doing it.
To help slow this process down and understand yourself better, you can start at any point on this chain and fill in the areas that are less illuminated in our consciousness. Once you have a better idea of the thoughts going on in your mind that create your emotions and behaviors, it puts you in a position to decide if you like those thoughts the way they are, or if you’d like to modify them. “Thinking errors” or distortions in our thinking patterns are very common, we all get caught exaggerating things, being in denial, imagining worst-case scenarios, or having negative beliefs about ourselves like “I don’t deserve____” or “I’m pretty sure that won’t work out anyway”. There are countless thinking errors we can get caught up in that don’t bring us in a positive emotive direction and adversely affect our behavior in the world.
“Thought re-structuring” is the process of creating replacement thoughts for habitual beliefs we get stuck in that cause emotional distress. Learning how to divest from thinking errors and re-focus on thoughts that promote positive emotions and behaviors is the goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy, and it works amazingly well. It takes some time to unveil the negative patterns we have established, but in the end the work is worthy when we have positive emotional outcomes.