Mental problems are varied and individualistic in most and therefore the approaches to addressing these dysfunctions are also diverse and may be tweaked to suit each individual patient. One such therapy that has proven to it merit through the decades is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT.
CBT and its History
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is also known by its shortened name, cognitive therapy, and by its initials, CBT. Cognitive theory is a type of therapy that focuses on a person’s thinking patterns as the source of his dysfunctional emotions and behaviours. The aim of CBT is to change how people think for the better so that this positivity may improve how they feel or how they choose to behave.
The Greek philosopher, Epictetus, taught that: “It’s not things that upset us, it’s our view of things.” Psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Aaron Beck drew from this philosophy to develop cognitive therapy in the U.S. in the 1960’s.
Albert Ellis is another proponent of CBT who developed a slightly different approach known as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). This therapy looks into a person’s basic irrational assumptions about themselves which often lead them to compromise their chances for happiness and success. Thoughts like “I can’t be that sexy; I’m not smart enough to make the grade; my parents don’t like me ” reflect a typical negativity that persists even when faced with contrary evidence.
A Case in Point
Some of us do not realize that our thought patterns and behaviour stem from negative assumptions. Take this case: Tom thinks of himself as inferior to his colleagues; as such, any small incidents at the workplace may upset him. If he happens to greet a co-worker who fails to reply in turn, Tom starts to think that:
- He has not been deemed worthy of the person’s time for a reply.
- He is not liked by this person.
Out of these assumptions, he goes on to infer more negative conclusions:
- My colleagues think I’m not good enough.
- I really am not good enough.
- It’s only a matter of time before I lose my job.
Tom then goes into a low mood without considering that there may be other factors why his greeting was not returned. His colleague may not have heard him or must have been preoccupied with something that he missed Tom’s greeting. More incidents like these and Tom begins to solidify his negative thoughts. These bad thoughts then influence Tom’s behaviour and he:
All these behaviours work against Tom’s ability to further his career. Indeed, he may lose his job if his behaviour is not corrected. This is where cognitive behavioural therapy can help. CBT sessions with a mental health professional may help Tom realize that his negative thoughts are compromising his workplace situation.
How CBT is Carried Out
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy involves a “talking it out” type of treatment that is concerned with making the patient realize that his inherent tendencies toward negative thoughts have a strong influence on his behaviours and emotional state.
A cognitive-behavioural therapist employs four phases in the treatment:
- Assessment stage
At the beginning, you and your therapist get to know each other. This is how your therapist can draft a treatment plan which can include an estimate of how long treatment is likely to take.
- Cognitive stage
In this stage, your therapist will help you identify what’s causing your negative behaviours. Expect to delve into past events that helped shape negative thought patterns. Your therapist means to help you to understand how your perceptions have brought about your maladjusted behaviours. Although this stage may prove difficult especially for people who grapple with introspection, patients must fully cooperate at this stage if they are to gain vital insights and make crucial discoveries about their psyche.
- Behaviour stage
Once the roots of the problem have been fleshed out, you and your therapist find new patterns of thinking and behaving. These new skills must be applicable to real life situations.
- Learning stage
The patient starts to learn and practice new behaviour. This may include dealing with situations that could contribute to a relapse. Here, the goal is to establish permanent positive changes so that the psychological problem may be eliminated for good.
It is the goal of CBT to help people come to terms with the fact that while they always cannot control their environment, they alone can control how they perceive things and react to them. Therapy is a gradual process, one that helps a person take small steps toward thought and behavioural change.
Where CBT is Most Effective
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been used to treat patients afflicted with a wide range of problems. These include anxiety, addiction, phobia, and depression. In much serious mental health dysfunctions, CBT may only be a component of a main therapy plan.
Cognitive therapy is best suited to people who are comfortable with self-analysis and introspection. CBT will prove effective especially with those who are truly committed to finding the root cause of the problem and making the necessary behavioural changes.