Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – often abbreviated as simply CBT – is likely the most widely-used type of therapy for patients with a wide variety of issues or disorders. Some might refer to it as talk therapy, because it simply involves a structured back-and-forth conversation between patient and counselor, with the aim of helping individuals become aware of their negative or inaccurate thinking and to offer ways to counteract this negativity and, eventually, respond to it in a new and different way.
Who benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be advantageous for a wide variety of individuals with vastly different mental health problems. Because CBT emphasizes the role of self-awareness in a person’s thoughts and actions, its benefits are far reaching. It leads the patient towards a better understanding of the negative thoughts that may be keeping him or her from moving forward in a more positive direction, which could – in turn – help that person to achieve his/her fullest potential.
Amongst those who seem to benefit most from cognitive behavioral therapy are individuals dealing with:
- Anxiety or panic disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, or overeating
- Mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Compulsive behaviors
While CBT is often used to treat the specific disorders listed above, many times in tandem with other therapies or medications, just about anyone can actually benefit from its techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy could assist a person who feels stuck in their career, for example, or someone who finds that they have difficulty maintaining relationships. Truly, a good CBT practitioner can assist anyone who needs to better learn how to combat negative thoughts and change their thinking patterns.
Why is CBT a treatment of choice?
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be very successful in a short amount of time, which is why many therapists choose to give it a try with patients who would appear to benefit from the treatment. Often, it requires only about 12-15 sessions to truly observe good progress.
However, even CBT doesn’t work when the patient isn’t fully invested in their recovery or in taking steps towards recovery. But if the patient is committed to getting better, cognitive behavioral therapy can make great inroads into many mental health disorders and other issues that are holding patients back from achieving all they can be.
Specifically, CBT can help address a number of emotional challenges, some of which plague a large portion of the population. These include:
- Coping with grief or loss
- Treating mental illness along with medications or when medications are not a viable option
- Coping with a life-changing medical diagnosis
- Managing eating disorders
- Dealing with trauma related to abuse or other forms of violence
- Overcoming the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- Managing anger
- Managing chronic pain or symptoms of chronic illness
- Overcoming sleep disorders
- Managing symptoms of a mental illness
- Learning techniques for dealing with life stressors (either short- or long-term)
- Resolving relationship difficulties
What to expect during cognitive behavioral therapy
Many individuals become nervous when it’s time to see a doctor or therapist of any kind. But with CBT, concerns should be minimal as this therapy merely gives the patient a chance to express themselves, talking about what’s plaguing them, and – as a result – receiving suggestions of techniques and other therapies that might help them progress through their situation.
The best way to prepare for your first appointment with a cognitive therapist is to spend some time alone thinking about the specific things you’d like to address with the therapist. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Obviously, if you’re dealing with something like chronic pain, it’s not hard to figure out what needs to be addressed. But if you’re experiencing, perhaps, an inability to connect with others or sustain a relationship, you might need to do a little more in-depth self-examination to determine what you’d like to address
Of course, your therapist will be able to help you hone that list once you get started. He or she can assist you in figuring out where negative thoughts are coming from and where they’re taking you, and how to develop coping skills that can help you manage negative feelings and/or fears.
Remember, there’s really no risks associated with CBT but there’s no doubt that you will feel uncomfortable at times. Like any therapy, it can conjure up some very painful feelings and emotions, but always keep in mind that the goal is to learn how to deal with those. You may even have to confront some situations that you’d rather avoid, but remember that your therapist will be (literally and figuratively) by your side at all times.
Choosing a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Just as with medical doctors, therapists/psychologists have specialties as well. When searching for a cognitive behavioral therapist, you should not only check the background and education, certification, and licensing of the individual (that’s pretty readily available online these days) but you should also inquire as to whether this individual has experience in treating others who are dealing with the same problems/disorders as yours.
So, don’t be afraid to simply ask those therapists you’re considering if they’ve treated patients like you. They can’t likely provide you with references due to privacy laws, but should be able to cite anonymous instances where they helped someone in a similar situation.
Many tech savvy therapists have websites, so take time to browse those to search for the information you seek about the individuals you’re considering. Referrals from others are always good, too. Your medical doctor may be able to offer a referral or perhaps a friend or family member who’s been successful with CBT can provide a name of a professional who can help you.