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  • Bridget Friedman, LICSW

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a specific type of psychological treatment that focuses on examining the relationship between beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The model is based on the idea that how one perceives or thinks about a situation is the primary driver of one’s emotions and behaviors. In every situation, we have automatic thinking patterns that happen very quickly and are often outside of our awareness. Often these automatic thoughts are not particularly helpful or accurate. CBT treatment focuses on helping individuals become more aware of the automatic thoughts that they experience and teaches them how to evaluate and replace inaccurate or unhelpful thoughts.

CBT also includes a focus on identifying and changing unproductive behaviors.

CBT has been heavily researched and has been found to be effective in treating many different types of psychological problems including anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, PTSD, insomnia, chronic pain, and eating disorders. It can be used in individual therapy, family therapy, or in a group setting.

What to expect from CBT treatment:

1. CBT is usually provided in a time-limited, structured fashion. The goal of the therapy is to help the client develop a concrete set of skills that they can use on their own outside of the therapy setting. In essence, the therapist’s goal is to help the client learn to become their own therapist.

2. The therapist will customize the treatment plan to meet the needs of each individual client. Skills that are often included in the treatment plan include the following:

  • cognitive restructuring (learning how to recognize and challenge unhelpful thoughts)

  • mindfulness

  • self-soothing / calming skills

  • assertiveness

  • behavioral change strategies

  • relapse prevention

  • communication skills

  • problem-solving skills

3. CBT treatment will primarily focus on the present and the future rather than on the past.

4. CBT therapy often includes homework to help the client build skills between sessions.

5. The therapist may use structured questionnaires or other tools to monitor client progress.

There are many therapists trained in providing CBT treatment. In addition, there are numerous self-help books that teach clients how to use these skills on their own. One book I highly recommend is: Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger, PhD and Christine Padeskiy, PhD.

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