In cognitive behavior therapy, psychological problems are believed to develop using cognitive distortions. Aaron Beck’s work suggests that by correcting these distortions, a more accurate experience of events is created. Through this work, a patient is better able to develop skills to properly process exposure to life events.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was founded by Dr. Aaron T. Beck. He was a renowned psychiatrist practicing in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Beck’s discovered that people with depression experience a stream of negative thoughts beyond the control of the patient. Dr. Beck named this “automatic thoughts”.
Dr. Beck concluded that a patient’s negative automatic thoughts could be of three different types: self-negative thoughts, negative thoughts about the world, and negative thoughts about the future. Patients may experience all or one of these types of automatic thoughts at any given time.
Dr. Beck further attempted to treat patients by analyzing their automatic thoughts. This proved to be an effective way of treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorder.
CBT is now very efficient and targets a full recovery of patients by reprogramming their thoughts and assisting to overcome depression on their own terms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a direct, timed method of treatment that targets the problem in its root, the mind. CBT aims to change the way a person thinks by a realization about life and their perspective.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts by interrogating and uprooting negative or irrational beliefs. Considered a “solutions-oriented” form of talk therapy, CBT rests on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior.
Feeling distressed, in some cases, may distort one’s perception of reality. CBT aims to identify harmful thoughts, assess whether they are an accurate depiction of reality, and, if they are not, employ strategies to challenge and overcome them.
Why does CBT work?
CBT programs tend to be structured and systematic, which makes it more likely that a person gets an adequate “dose” of healthy thinking and behaviors. For example, a patient with depression may be asked to write down the thoughts he has when something upsetting happens, and then to work with the therapist to test how helpful and accurate the thoughts are. Repeated and focused practice is an integral part of CBT. CBT centers around building new habits—which we may know but need to remember and implement successfully.
CBT programs can be standardized and tested so that the mental health field can identify which programs are effective, how long they take, and the benefits that patients can expect.
CBT is appropriate for people of all ages, including children, adolescents, and adults. Evidence has mounted that CBT can address numerous conditions, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many others.
CBT is a preferred modality of therapy among practitioners and insurance companies alike as it can be effective in a brief period of time, generally 5 to 20 sessions, though there is no set time frame. Research indicates that CBT can be delivered effectively online, in addition to face-to-face therapy sessions.
Cognitive restructuring as a specific process that’s used in CBT. When trying to change the way you think about certain situations, the first thing you have to do is to identify what’s wrong.
which factors in your life are causing the cycle of negative thinking? This process is important for clinicians since it allows them to pinpoint an important item in our negative cycles:
In the case of someone suffering from depression and anxiety disorder, their automatic thoughts are a good place to start for CBT. You can be sure that these people have negative automatic thoughts which immediately start bad cycles in their behavior.
Although it’s not enough to identify these thoughts, what is required is to analyze them. Not every automatic thought can induce depression and anxiety disorder. The first things you must check is if these thoughts are reasonable.
As someone practicing CBT, it is your responsibility to help the patient realize that their automatic thoughts are well-founded, but they are emotionally in the wrong direction.
What reason would my boss have to dislike me?
Categorize your evidence as and weigh them out with the patient at the end of the activity. Is there more evidence pointing out the possibility that your boss hates you? There may be more evidence pointing out the possibility that your boss just did not notice you.
Your boss does not hate you. He probably just did not hear you because he was on the phone.
With a full and objective perspective, you have already done half of what CBT needs to accomplish. You have already assisted yourself into creating a new perspective that will disrupt your current negative cycle.
In line with identifying negative thoughts and changing them, it is important to know what kinds of automatic thoughts contribute to unrealistic perspectives and creates mental issues.
These are known as cognitive distortions. Understanding their various natures helps you point out what’s causing irrational emotions and behaviors.
People that over-generalize, take one undesirable incident and label themselves for every other instance of the same occasion.
A good example of this is a person that failed an interview for one specific job at a specific company. The positive way to take this event is to learn from your mistakes and attempt to apply with another company.
However, this could turn sour if you begin to generalize your worth as an employee based on just one interview. You tend to think that interviews are not meant for you and you will forever be in search of a job offer.
Behavioral Activation is bringing life into activities normally deemed futile by those that suffer from depression and anxiety. disorder.
The problem with this approach is that a person suffering from depression and anxiety experiences things differently compared to a mentally healthy individual. Say a birthday party event, people are surrounded by friends and relatives to wish someone more happy years. The fact that so many people love you and want you to live longer should make anyone feel happy. A depressed and anxious person doesn’t see this to be the case. For them, a birthday is just another reason to get out of the house. For them, it is just another useless social gathering. It’s just that they don’t feel anything at all, even when the situation pushes them towards a certain emotion.
Behavioral Activation isn’t just a simple immersion into positive activities. It’s a sincere effort to add meaning to these events and showing that meaning to the patient so that they can once again learn to enjoy these things.
You will notice that despite dealing with thoughts and beliefs, you are still following one of the most basic scientific principles: the scientific method.
First, you identify a problem closely related to your depression and anxiety disorder. Following that, you formulate a hypothesis that encompasses the nature of your issue. From that point, you determine your constants (the need to go shopping), and the variables (the two beliefs to contradict shopping).
Once these elements have been identified, it’s time to test your hypothesis. You gather data from your experiment and come up with a solution that will later become an integral part of your therapy sessions.
You will notice that Behavioral Experiments abound at the beginning of your therapy. This is because your therapist would want to get to know more about you and your condition.
Because Behavioral Experiments are patterned after the scientific process, other methods that affect this process are also available to you. If you’re hard-pressed for time, you can gather data through surveys instead. You can also simulate real-life situations in roleplaying to get a better feel of your variables. It’s a customizable approach.
You may not like a certain sweater that your colleague is wearing to work today. It could be because that was the same blouse a loved was wearing when they passed away. You may also dislike certain kinds of music because it reminds you of an old romantic relationship that did not end well.
In these cases, do you just become a victim of circumstance? Will you go so far as to ask your co-worker to change clothes and demand that they stop playing a certain song on the radio? You may not know it, but you’re doing more harm to yourself by reacting in such a way.
When you reframe your thoughts, you do not just change them. You change the whole network on which your thoughts rest.
Go back to that sweater your co-worker is wearing. Because of that sweater trigger, you’ ward off everything else about your colleague. What you fail to realize is that there are other things about your co-worker or her attire that can substitute your current cognitive framework.
Instead of remembering the sweater your deceased loved one was wearing, you can appreciate how the blouse matches the dress she has. Your new framework doesn’t even have to involve the sweater in the first place. Your loved one and your co-worker are two separate entities. Any associations you make between these two will turn out to be illogical and unfair for either of them.
By changing your frame from the blouse to the person or something else, you can easily counteract the beginning negative spiral started by your association of the blouse.
your colleague’s sweater reminds you of something unpleasant, but at the very core, your colleague isn’t just a painful reminder for you. She is a completely different person with her own freedom to choose what she wears. You don’t have to stick to your negative framework all the time. Will you hate everything that reminds you of your loved one?
What if your boss was wearing the same blouse as they offered you a promotion? Would you reject it on account of the blouse? You are more likely to say no because the alternative framework entails something positive for you.
This means you cannot just switch frames willy-nilly. You will have to want to change your framework. That takes some observation skills.
Take another look at your colleague. Is her blouse the only thing that you notice? There must be something about her that is positive for you besides her taste in clothes. Is her hair done well? Does it attract you? Is she carrying that bag you complimented a few days ago?
Reframing is not just shifting focus. It is finding a set of positives amidst one glaring perceived negative.
When you learn to do that on your own, almost every situation opens as a chance to renew your cognitive frameworks. Remember, everything does not have to be an unbearable trigger for your social anxiety disorder attacks. External stimuli will only affect you if you give them the associative power to do so.
Since CBT is part helping and part learning, customized approaches to self-treatment are always welcome. At the end of treatment, patients are also taught how to diagnose and treat their own symptoms with remedial techniques. Below are some remedies for depression and social anxiety disorder attacks that many patients and therapists use.
Consider an intense feeling of nervousness. At the onset of this sensation, you will begin to dwell on it and probably question its persistence. Why am I experiencing this? What is causing this feeling to swell inside me? Your cognitions will revolve around explaining this event instead of fixing it right away.
When you focus on the future, you accept the fact that you are feeling a certain way at the moment and appreciate the premise that this feeling will subside sooner or later, with or without your prompting.
What you then focus on is what you’re going to feel once this feeling of anxiety disorder subsides. You need to be careful about this sentiment because it is possible to end up worse.
Are you going to feel calm and relaxed once the feeling of anxiety disorder subsides? Or will it be replaced with worry and paranoia as you still think about why you experienced another attack of anxiety disorder?
Focusing on the right outcome will make it easier to deal with your emotions. Instead of thinking about why you are feeling a certain way at the moment, focus on how relaxed and comfortable you’ll feel once the feeling passes.
This sort of intervention serves as an ideal coping mechanism for feelings of uncertainty and discomfort that may suddenly plague you throughout your day. When you are not with your therapist, this is an ideal method for activating your inert coping mechanisms, helping you avoid breaking down and losing focus.
This technique becomes even more powerful when you include a little bit of journaling. Log your emotions the moment you start experiencing them. At the same time, write about how you expect to feel the moment these sensations change.
In addition to that, you can also log the physical changes in behavior you expect to see from yourself when that change happens. Are you going to get back to work with a smile on your face? Are you going to eat something good to reward yourself? Will you talk about this incident with your friend or therapist?
When you write these things down, it creates a mental image that further cements the expectations you set for yourself. When the feelings subside, it’s easier for you to recognize the change and move on with your day.
Now that you have a technique for sudden onsets of depression and anxiety disorder, another thing you need for self-help is the capacity to deal with your insecurities and anxieties when you’re faced with real-life triggers that cause you discomfort.
Take, for instance, a company gathering across multiple branches. For a socially-anxious person, this may be a terrifying experience. It’s hard enough getting along with the regular people at the office. Now you also have to deal with colleagues you’ve never met before and get to know them better. This can be a paralyzing premise for more patients.
Like every behavior, your anxiety disorder or depression towards certain events stem from a perceived consequence that will spring from your participation. You may not be thinking of this consequence but your subconscious kicks in and is empowers your irrational hesitation.
This is where isolating your emotional threats comes in. Instead of dwelling on the fear and trying to muster the imaginary courage to push through, put on a detective hat and chase your fears down the rabbit hole.
Figure out the threat behind your hesitation and challenge it. In the example above, what could be the underlying threat by joining a company gathering?
Will you meet new people? Does that scare you?
What scares you about meeting these new people?
Are you afraid that these people may not like you?
Are you afraid of the concept of working with people that dislike you?
Are you forgetting that you are there to enjoy the gathering and not to work?
What will you feel when you find out that someone there does not like you? Will you get upset?
What will you when you get upset? Will you be making any assumptions about yourself? Will you think that everyone does not like you at all and they are all talking behind your back?
What evidence do you have to support this claim? Aren’t there people you like and people that like you in the office? Aren’t they already a counterargument to this hesitation you are feeling?
Now you can zero in on why you are hesitating. Instead of wrestling with your emotions, take the logical route and try to justify your fears.
Mental health is a field of study that has come with a tremendous stigma. The rates of psychological disorders are astoundingly high, yet the number of people in treatment for these disorders is astoundingly low because of that stigma. If learning the concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy could help all people, through the examination of their cognitive distortions, an impact on reducing that stigma might be made.
All humans are flawed. There is not a single human alive who does not have cognitive distortion from time to time. Developing a deeper understanding of what these distortions are and creating a way to reframe thoughts, behaviors, and actions can help all humans. What an incredible impact mental well-being training could have on the world! Thanks for reading.