What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is commonly known as CBT, was developed sometime in the 1960’s by doctor Aaron Beck. CBT was initially developed to treat short-term depression before it was explored by other psychological experts and integrated as part of the comprehensive treatment for individuals dealing with not only depression but also other mental health illnesses.
CBT is a psychological treatment and a method of talk therapy that is used to treat patients by helping them identify the challenges and negative thoughts they are having, which is in return having an effect on their general output and behaviour. The goal of cognitive behavioural treatment is to identify the negative thought patterns and change them. The clear and changed thought process helps such an individual see challenging situations more clearly and be able to face those challenges in an effective manner.
As mentioned earlier, the first form of CBT was developed with the target of treating just depression. However, over the years, that has changed as it now covers not just depression but also; anger, panic Disorder, PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), Insomnia, addiction, substance abuse, phobias, and many other mental health disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves a lot of scientific research and clinical trials, which back up the fact that it is actually very effective and works; CBT is a very specific and strategic psychological approach. It involves the patient and the therapist working together to create the best CBT strategy that would work. All these make cognitive behavioural therapy different from other forms of psychotherapies.
The goal of CBT is to help the individual identify and change his faulty thinking pattern, which in turn affects his behavior and emotions, and refocus his thoughts on realistic and more objective thoughts.
Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT employs the use of cognitive and behavioural techniques. There are different types of or approaches to cognitive behavioural therapy. We would be highlighting and discussing some of them below;
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This is a modified form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) treatment. It was initially developed to treat just borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, it has now been designed to be used to treat other mental health illnesses like, Post-traumatic disorders(PTSD), self-harm, Substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and behavior, and so on.
DBT helps the patient acknowledge and focus on his present self and at the same time be aware that there needs to be a change to his behavior. Dialectical behavioral therapy helps the patient boost his mindfulness skill so as to focus and be able to make use of his coping skill while going through emotional or psychological issues.
The therapist helps the patient pick up healthy coping skills and let go of the harmful coping mechanisms. Other strategies that are used in dialect behavioral therapy by therapists are; Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Emotion Regulation. For distress tolerance, the patient is taught techniques on how to handle a crisis.
For interpersonal effectiveness, the patient is taught to be assertive. Emotional regulation skills or techniques help to channel whatever overwhelming emotion the patient is having in a positive direction. Dialectic behavioral therapy is used during group therapies, individual therapy, and over-the-phone therapies. It has been scientifically and clinically proven that DBT works.
- Cognitive Therapy: There is the possibility of being confused as to the meaning of cognitive therapy because it is similar to cognitive behavioural therapy. Cognitive therapy is also a psychotherapy technique and just a branch of CBT that is focused on helping the patient get rid of psychological distress.
Just like cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy also demands participation and teamwork from both the therapist and the patient. It focuses on positively helping the mental process of the patient. The therapist is expected to work within a limited time and get the required result within that period. Cognitive has been scientifically and clinically proven to help with the treatment of mental illnesses such as; schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviors, amongst others. Cognitive theory is focused only on the current thought processes and problems the patient is facing and does not involve the future behaviors exhibited by the patient.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy: This is a particular type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on all mental health issues arising from trauma. It deals with abnormal thought processes linked with post-traumatic disorders (PTSD); some of these traumas are child abuse, rape, and so on.
The cognitive processing theory was developed initially by Dr. Patricia Resick to help women who had been victims of domestic abuse. This type of therapy is only held for 12 sessions and is carried out weekly. The Cognitive processing sessions can be carried out as a group session or as an individual session; It could also be a physical session or a virtual session. Cognitive processing therapy works to ensure that there is a resolve in the conflict between beliefs pre-trauma and post-trauma.
The 12 therapy sessions are further divided into different phases. The first phase is known as “Psychoeducation”. At the psychoeducation stage, the patient is given and taught all he needs to know about post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). The therapist would ask the patient to describe his symptoms and help link his thought patterns and behavior to Post-traumatic disorder (PTSD); once the patient is able to identify the thoughts that are contributing to his PTSD symptoms, treatment would continue.
The second stage is for you to understand and process your trauma. In this stage, the therapist would ask the patient to write down what his thought process is about his trauma, how the trauma is affecting or has affected his life; the therapist can go as far as making the patient write describing the trauma and how it happened. The patient is also asked about his belief about the trauma and its effect.
The final phase is what is called modifying or changing your beliefs. Through the course of the therapy session, the therapist would help you realize that it is only normal to have whatever thoughts or beliefs the trauma has caused you to form about life. The therapist would then further assist the patient to understand that there has to be a balance with these thought processes and that the trauma should not define his opinion about life and his esteem generally. This therapy helps the person in significant areas of his life that have been affected by the trauma, such as; having high self-esteem, trust, safety, power, intimacy, and other concepts affected by the trauma.
What are the Pros and Cons of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy has its disadvantages and advantages. We would be looking into some of them. Some of the pros or benefits of using cognitive behavioral therapy are that;
- It is a time-specific treatment; therefore, it doesn’t drag for a long time compared to other therapies. It is expected that the treatment would be completed within a particular time frame, and the patient would have gotten the desired result within that time frame.
- It has been scientifically and medically proven to be as effective as the use of medication in treating some mental health illnesses. Sometimes it is used as part of a comprehensive treatment that also includes the use of drugs, some other times, it is used as an alternative treatment where the use of drugs has failed.
- The fact that Cognitive behavioural therapy is target-specific makes it even more effective. It focuses on modifying and changing distorted thought processes of patients that are in turn affecting the individual’s behavior.
- The cognitive behavioural therapy works in such a way that it is not only the therapist that participates in the sessions; it is a joint effort of both the therapist and the patient. The advantage this has on the patient is that, since the patient is given tasks and responsibilities to engage with, the skills would help the patient not only for that specific mental health issue but also for other challenges that may come up in the individuals’ life.
The challenges or disadvantages of using cognitive behavioural therapy are;
- Because of how invested the patient is required to be and the method of patient-therapist integration; once the patient is not taking the therapy seriously or performing his own responsibilities as regards the therapy, the whole purpose for which the therapy sessions were put in place in the first place would definitely be defeated.
- There is usually so much to do within a limited time, therefore, causing both the patient and the therapist to have a whole lot of workload to do. Most of the time, the patient would have to commit a lot of time to group therapies, take-home tasks or assignments, personal research, and a lot more. Cognitive behavioural therapy is time-consuming.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is a very structured type of therapy that involves the use of specific methods and techniques, thereby making it difficult for individuals with more complicated mental health challenges to be able to undertake the therapy. It is also most of the time not suitable for people with learning difficulties.
- Patients that undergo cognitive behavioral therapy are forced to literally face their fears as they have to revisit and relive the trauma they went through in order to be able to discuss the root cause of their unusual thought processes and behaviour.
What Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work For?
Cognitive behavioral therapy works for many mental health conditions; we have mentioned a number of them in this article. They are;
● Suicidal behaviors
● post-traumatic disorder (PTSD)
● Eating disorders
● Low self-esteem
● Personality disorders
● Substance abuse
Cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective in treating different medical conditions, some of which we have mentioned above; this has been both medically and clinically tested. It is of very good advantage that CBT is time-specific and positive results have been proved to be achieved within the specified time frames.
The unique thing about cognitive behavioral therapy is that the patient is an integral part of the whole therapy session. The coping skills obtained are helpful for that particular challenge and even for other life challenges that may come up later in life.
CBT focuses on helping the individual identify and change the faulty thought processes; it touches on the present issue and the resulting behavior of the individual going forward. One very encouraging fact about the whole Cognitive behavioral therapy is that clinical trials and different researches have been going on to improve the quality of the therapy further over the years. .”