Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to treat people with a wide range of mental health problems.
CBT is based on the idea that:
- how we think (cognition)
- how we feel (emotion)
- how we act (behavior)
all interact together.
Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior.
Therefore, negative and unrealistic thoughts can cause us distress and result in problems. When a person suffers with psychological distress, the way in which they interpret situations becomes skewed, which in turn has a negative impact on the actions they take.
CBT aims to help people become aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioral patterns which reinforce the distorted thinking. Cognitive therapy helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which aims to reduce their psychological distress.
A major component of CBT involves the client carrying out tasks between therapy sessions. These tasks are agreed between client and therapist and are based on a shared understanding of the problems.
Together the client and therapist identify how these problems affect thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical functioning and work together in order to find solutions that are more helpful than the present way of coping.
The aim of therapy is for the client to learn to be their own therapist and use the skills learned during therapy in order to maintain their improvement.
CBT is generally focussed on what is happening in the present, although in some cases it is useful to explore early experiences or past trauma in order to develop an understanding of how thought patterns and beliefs were formed by these experiences. However, in other cases such as phobias, simple desensitising and exposure exercises may be all that is required.
The goals of treatment and the pace of treatment are determined by the client.
Progress is monitored throughout therapy by the use of well established psychological rating scales, by the attainment of specified goals and by client ratings of their subjective experience.
This informs therapy by identifying areas of improvement that can be built upon and problematic areas that have to be addressed further.
In CBT therapy is structured towards identifiable goals and progress can be seen, felt and also measured.