Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy that is used to treat a multitude of mental health complications and emotional trauma. Cognitive behavior therapy is a step by step process that aides changing and improving the way one thinks during mental health problems and helps patients adjust their behavior better in order to be more productive and satisfied. It is typically used to treat problems associated with anxiety and depression.
Cognitive behavioral therapy was initially used to treat depression, but the practice has expanded to incorporate a wide range of problems. The basic premise of CBT is the concept that attitude, thoughts, and feelings are all interconnected. By challenging the pre-existing cognitive beliefs or ideas, the patient is psycho-socially supported to bring positive changes in thoughts and behavior. Added to this a number of coping strategies and habits are encouraged that help patients deal with episodes of anxiety, depression and other problems. Some of the other areas where cognitive behavior therapy has shown remarkable success include addiction, eating disorders, various kinds of phobias, manic disorders, sleep issues, chronic fatigue, excessive anger, and aggression. For mental health conditions that have progressed severely, CBT is often combined with medication and other forms of therapy.
An Overview of the Workings
Traditional practices focused on the effects of incoherent and faulty thought patterns to difficulties in behaviors and relationships. Through research and analysis, the impacts of changes in relationships on maladaptive thinking have been understood. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on bettering and bringing changes in these relationships rather than bringing change in thinking itself. Psychotherapists practicing CBT often do not label their patients with one particular disorder and considers the person as a whole and change the problematic areas.
Some of the major malformed thought patterns and cognitive distortions include obsessing over the negative qualities, ignoring the positives, overgeneralizing and destructive or catastrophic thinking. Through repeated therapeutic sessions, positive attitude and healthy thinking habits are cultivated, and self-induced stress on the patient is reduced. The therapist challenges and questions the thinking habits formed by the patient and teaches them to react better to situations. Through such consistent skill development, the patient learns to manage their mental health better.
There are multiple steps or phases in cognitive behavior therapy. The six major steps are mentioned below.
- Evaluation and assessment of the patient’s conditions and thought patterns.
- Re-conceptualizing the patient and guidance in changing their outlook.
- Learning of new skills.
- Training in the newly acquired skills and consolidation of behavior.
- Maintenance of the progressing patient and generalization of perceptions.
- Assessment after the treatment and follow-up sessions.
Identifying the behavioral problems in the patient requires a planned approach to increase or decrease certain behavior as per the problematic areas. A step by step approach towards identifying such behavior is mentioned below.
- Successful identification of the critical behavioral patterns.
- Understanding which behavior is to be reduced or enhanced.
- Understanding the nature, frequency, intensity, and duration of such critical behaviors.
- Subsequent attempts to manage the behaviors by guiding the patient.
Most common practices of Cognitive behavioral therapy involve delivery of care through “interventions” and self-instruction. Various modes of relaxation therapies and guided-mindfulness therapies are combined with traditional CBT methods.
Applications of Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy has seen widespread applications in numerous fields such as anxiety, depression, stress disorders, psychosis, eating disorders, compulsive and chaotic behaviors, obsessive-compulsive disorders and schizophrenia and addictions among other serious issues. Some of the features of the treatment in some of these problems are mentioned below.
- Anxiety issues- Adults with various severities of anxiety have found relief with Cognitive behavioral therapy. One of the treatment methods used to treat anxiety is known as in vivo exposure. This refers to direct exposure to situations, objects, and events feared by the patient. The therapist guides the patient in confronting those fears. The idea is to unlearn those stressful reactions and perceive the various situations differently.
- Schizophrenia and psychosis- Psychosis and depression can be treated with CBT. It has been noted that cognitive behavioral therapy has had one of the best successes on depression and serious depressive disorders. Since depression is heavily bent towards patients in the grip of negative critical behavioral patterns, through careful treatment, such vicious cycles can be treated. Additionally, several medical tests including placebo based tests have indicated the success of CBT (often combined with medication) for treating psychosis, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders.
- Preventing addiction- Addiction is a forced habit that people get attached to and which affects their attitude and behavior. Through cognitive behavior therapy, addicts learn to control their tendencies and behavioral patterns. It has also proved effective in preventing relapses into addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often prescribed for those suffering from gambling addiction. CBT looks at smoking cigarettes as an adopted behavior which has been reinforced through habit and dependency. Cigarettes are readily accessible and allow people momentary release from stress. Cognitive behavior therapy addresses this behavioral pattern and equips patients with coping mechanisms which can be replaced with the habit of smoking. Treatment of addiction works differently with different patients depending upon their addiction and severity.
- Eating Disorders- Various kinds of eating disorders such as binge eating, bulimia and other kinds of malfunctioning eating habits can be treated through the effective application of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used as the first method of treatment in case of bulimia and nervosa. CBT helps in managing and controlling extreme behaviors that lead to such eating disorders and helps the patients develop compensatory tactics.
With the world’s growing awareness towards mental health and the growing concern has increased the popularity of Cognitive behavioral therapy as a viable method of treatment. With mental disorders being regarded as complex diseases, new therapeutic practices are being worked upon to treat them better. Cognitive behavior therapy is regarded as the second wave of psychotherapy practices to reach the patients. The newer third wave techniques involve using mindfulness therapies. These therapeutic practices are especially effective for relapse prevention solutions and are primarily used for treating severe depression, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders.