If you have never experienced therapy or counseling, you may not realize that numerous types of mental health interventions fall under the umbrella of “therapy.” One of these very specific mental health therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
What Can CBT Treat?
The American Psychological Association (APA) describes CBT as a good treatment for:
- Depression (mild to moderate)
- Substance use disorders
- Marital difficulties
- Eating disorders
- Other severe mental illness
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?
CBT assumes that:
- Psychological problems can be the result of flawed or unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Psychological problems can be the result of unhealthy learned behaviors.
- The people who struggle with psychological problems can learn to overcome these issues and will be happier and live more productive lives as a result.
WedMD points out that CBT doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about the past, but is more focused on what you think and feel now and how you can make changes within yourself and your environment to improve your life.
CBT has been found to be effective, both through research and through clinical practice, so many health insurances will cover at least some of the cost for an insured patient to participate in CBT.
Strategies Employed by CBT Practitioners
The APA article goes on to state some common practices of therapists utilizing CBT to treat clients. These include:
- Helping clients to identify and address distortions in their thinking that are causing them problems.
- Assisting clients to better understand other people, including their motives and behaviors.
- Supporting clients as they utilize problem-solving skills to address difficulties.
- Aiding the client in building their self-confidence.
In order to reach these goals, therapists may encourage clients to:
- Face fears they’ve been avoiding
- Use role-playing to prepare for potentially difficult conversations
- Learn to calm their mind and body
When Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Recommended?
The Mayo Clinic suggests that CBT be used for a limited amount of time (usually five to 20 sessions) and emphasizes that it can do more than simply treat mental illness. In addition, CBT can help clients:
- Learn stress management techniques
- Identify ways to manage emotions
- Resolve relationship issues
- Find better ways to communicate
- Cope with grief or loss
- Manage a medical illness and chronic pain
The Child Welfare Information Gateway suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy be used with families in cases where there is conflict, coercion, and/or physical abuse. CBT is likely to be recommended for the family if it seems probable that children in the home will develop significant problems, such as aggression, poor interpersonal skills, and strong emotional reactivity. This is likely to be the case in homes where parents are punitive or tend to over-parent.
There are few risks associated with participating in CBT, other than some possible emotional discomfort at times. It is not uncommon for a CBT provider to work with a client on topics that bring up difficult feelings. CBT can be combined with other therapeutic interventions, including other types of talk therapy, medication management and substance abuse treatment, if appropriate.
CBT can be done one-on-one, with just the client and therapist present, with families, or in group settings with unrelated people who have similar struggles.
Clinicians who offer cognitive behavioral therapy may have different backgrounds and licensing requirements based on their region. Often, those who become certified in CBT are life coaches, social workers, medical professionals, or mental health counselors.
In some cases, therapists might give their client homework assignments to do between sessions. This might include journaling, worksheets, reading or practicing skills that have been developed during therapy appointments.
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
A number of factors determine how many CBT sessions a person will need. These include:
- The specific disorder or situation to be treated
- Severity of symptoms
- Duration of symptoms
- How the client has been dealing with the situation
- Progress speed
- How much stress the client is under
- Level of support the person receives from family and friends
CBT ultimately relies upon a client’s readiness to make changes and hear truths that might be difficult to accept. At Highland Hospital, our providers work with clients to find the best possible treatment for their unique needs.