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The What, How, and Why of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

three people sitting in room and having a discussion - group therapy - cognitive behavioral therappy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Nearly all of us have an image in our minds of what a therapy session looks like. After all, therapy is played for laughs or used to create drama throughout our popular culture. We picture the therapist with their notepad sitting a short distance away from a person who is either seated or reclining on a couch. The therapist is asking questions and jotting down observations while the person in therapy recounts their troubles. The therapist then says something wise intended to help the person make progress—or at least make it to the next session with their mental health intact.

But despite the various trappings of therapy we have picked up from books, television shows, movies, and comics, nothing we have described above explains how and why therapy works. Or even what it means, exactly, for therapy to work.

For our purposes here, we want to dig into a specific kind of therapy that involves clear goals and a clear path to accomplishing those goals. Let’s talk about cognitive behavioral therapy.

Thoughts, Feelings, Actions: Understanding the Connections

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is built around the idea that it is helpful to understand the relationship between our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. With that understanding in our personal toolkit, we can more effectively find positive approaches and solutions to the most pressing problems we might be facing.

Structured, Goal-Oriented, Short-Term: Understanding the Approach

CBT is intended to help the person in therapy address current challenges in their lives. To do that, it follows a structured approach designed around the setting of achievable goals, the accomplishment of which will help improve a situation or solve a problem. Because of this focus on present problems, CBT tends to be a short-term process. Rather than months or years of therapy, the CBT process generally involves 12 to 16 sessions.

Functional Analysis, Skills Training, Application: Understanding the Process

The first step in solving any problem is to identify the cause of that problem. In CBT, the process of figuring out the root cause of any problem you are facing is known as functional analysis. Perhaps, for example, you find you are sleeping a lot—even at times when it is important to be awake. In conversation with your therapist, you may discover that you use sleep as a way to manage ongoing anxiety. Once you have realized this, you can address the root problem: the anxiety itself.

That’s where skills training and application come into play. With your therapist, you can discuss strategies and options for better managing anxiety. You can learn what skills are needed and then apply them to make actual improvements in your life.

Ideas, Issues, Examples: Understanding the Nitty-Gritty

Each individual’s experience with cognitive behavioral therapy will, of course, be different because each person’s situation and needs are unique to them. A trained therapist will work with you to ensure that your individual needs are met. That said, we can provide some additional examples of the kinds of issues that might be addressed during CBT.

  • Identifying triggers that seem to spark anxiety or other difficult emotions and developing a plan for coping with those triggers more effectively
  • Reflecting on the ways in which negative self-talk can undermine your confidence, drive, and mental health and finding strategies to mitigate negative internal narratives
  • Considering the pros and cons of a problematic relationship to decide what steps need to be taken to salvage—or end—the connection with another individual

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective approach in a range of different circumstances.

If you come to the process with a willingness to identify underlying causes of—and effective strategies for dealing with—the problem or problems you are facing, CBT offers a way forward.

We Are Here to Support Your Mental Health

When you are struggling with a mental health disorder—whether it is anxiety, depression, a trauma-based disorder, or something else—you need support that is grounded in both expertise and compassion. And that is what you will find at The Farley Center.

We will listen intently to what you have to say and then create a treatment plan—including, if appropriate, cognitive behavioral therapy—specifically for you and your situation. If you need help, the right time is right now. When you are ready to improve your mental well-being, we are ready to help.

Are you or someone you love looking for mental health treatment near Loveland, CO? For more information about Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, and the programs we offer, contact us today at (800) 313-3387.

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