Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term psychological treatment based on the idea that how one thinks (cognition), feels (emotion) and behaves (behavior) all interact together. Specifically, one’s thoughts determine one’s feelings and behavior. Therefore, negative – and unrealistic – thoughts can cause distress and result in problems. CBT helps to change the way you think, feel and behave.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an interactive, directive style of therapy with a primary focus on current issues. CBT is not a quick fix. A therapist advises and encourages – but cannot ‘do’ it for you. Most clients are seen once per week. A course of CBT is typically 6 weeks to 6 months. The strength of CBT is that you can continue to practice and develop your skills even after the sessions have finished. This makes it less likely that your symptoms or problems will return. It is a misconception that CBT only results in superficial changes. Once clients have achieved some relief from acute symptoms it is customary to turn our attention to identifying and modifying core beliefs. Core beliefs are rigid persistent beliefs that influence us in many different situations. It is through core belief work that some of the deeper changes in CBT occur.
We usually suggest reading or homework outside of the sessions to augment our work. Since the balance of your life takes place outside of the session, it is important that you collect data, “run experiments,” and practice the new techniques and strategies we discuss in your “real” life. Self-monitoring and practice sessions give us important feedback on what strategies work for you and facilitate progress as well as greater self-awareness. The success and pace of therapy is related to the amount of effort you put in outside of sessions.
CBT is particularly suitable for and has been empirically validated by research for specific problems such as phobias, panic attacks, eating disorders and depression. Research shows it is even more effective than medication for most of these conditions. In addition, the results are more long-lasting.