Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to self-destructive actions and the beliefs that direct these thoughts, people with mental illness can modify their patterns of thinking to improve coping. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that is different from traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy in that the therapist and the patient will actively work together to help the patient recover from their mental illness. People who seek CBT can expect their therapist to be problem-focused, and goal-directed in addressing the challenging symptoms of mental illnesses. Because CBT is an active intervention, one can also expect to do homework or practice outside of sessions.

A person who is depressed may have the belief, “I am worthless,” and a person with panic disorder may have the belief, “I am in danger.” While the person in distress likely believes these to be ultimate truths, with a therapists help, the individual is encouraged to challenge these irrational beliefs. Part of this process involves viewing such negative beliefs as hypotheses rather than facts and to test out such beliefs by “running experiments. Furthermore, people who are participating in CBT are encouraged to monitor and write down the thoughts that pop into their minds (called “automatic thoughts”). This allows the patient and their therapist to search for patterns in their thinking that can cause them to have negative thoughts which can lead to negative feelings and self-destructive behaviors.

When is (CBT) used as a form of therapy?

Scientific studies of CBT have demonstrated its usefulness for a wide variety of mental illnesses including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, sleep disorders and psychotic disorders. Studies have shown that CBT actually changes brain activity in people with mental illnesses who receive this treatment, suggesting that the  brain is actually improving its functioning as a result of engaging in this form of therapy.

CBT has been shown to be as useful as antidepressant medication for some people with depression and may be superior in preventing relapse of symptoms. Patients receiving CBT for depression are encouraged to schedule positive activities into their daily calendars in order to increase the amount of pleasure they experience. In addition, depressed patients learn how to change  (restructure) negative thought patterns in order to interpret their environment in a less negatively-biased way. As regular sleep has been found to be very important in both depression and bipolar disorder, therapists will also target sleeping patterns to improve and regulate sleep schedules with their patients. Studies indicate that patients who receive CBT in addition to treatment with medication have better outcomes than patients who do not receive CBT as an additional treatment.

As opposed to other therapies, CBT techniques are known to generate results that are both durable and quick.  On average, CBT therapy takes six months to a year, while other more traditional forms of therapy can take years and are frequently open-ended.  The harder working patient will see results more quickly, especially if what is learned during sessions is practiced outside of the office.  The therapist and client will ultimately decide together an appropriate time to conclude treatment.  Patients are often surprised to hear their therapists hinting at termination issues, something not typically expected from a therapist.  Although Cornerstone Counseling and Wellness provides a wide range of services, CBT provides the backbone for the vast majority of our treatment.  CBT allows us to work with patients to set tangible goals within a reasonable time frame.