Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Thoughts have the incredible power to affect our emotions and behavioral reactions. Because of this interconnection, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has become widespread and is one of the most popular forms of therapy in use today. There are technically quite a few variations of each approach, but they all tend to share the same attributes (Corey, 2020):
- Psychological distress is maintained by cognitive processes;
- The focus is on changing the cognitive processes resulting in more desired behaviors;
- Despite many concerns being rooted in the past, these approaches focus on the present;
With that said, there are many books out there that help people with self-teaching these techniques. But utilizing a professional helps hold accountability while ensuring the treatment is properly applied. With that, let’s go into a few different types of CBT.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
- The earliest type formed, based on an A-B-C framework, which goes something like this:
o The existence of an activating event or adversity;
o The emotional/behavioral consequence of the individual;
o The person’s belief about the activating event or adversity;
- In essence, the adversity we experience (more objective, based on facts) creates a belief from us about this event. From that belief, we experience the emotional consequence.
- Once this occurs, we then dispute the irrational beliefs.
- Once disputed, we move on to create a new effective philosophy for ourselves, replacing the negative belief with a more positive one.
Typically with this approach, the therapist is pretty direct with the client in pointing out what thoughts are affecting them in a negative way. They become much more of a teacher, instead of the client doing most of the work. Homework is also used so clients can start to detect these thoughts throughout their everyday lives.
- Based on empirical research to help treat depression. However, there is no assumption that negative thoughts cause depression. Instead, once someone becomes depressed (due to genetic or biological causes), the “negative cognitive triad” takes hold, where someone adopts negative views of the self (self-criticism), the world (pessimism), and the future (hopelessness).
- Faulty Information processing is one of the main causes for these distorted views. Seven cognitive distortions outlined include:
o Conclusions drawn without supporting evidence (arbitrary inferences);
o Forming conclusions based on select few clues instead of the bigger picture (selective abstraction);
o Forming extreme beliefs based on a single incident (overgeneralization);
o A case being perceived in a greater or lesser light than it really deserves (magnification or minimization);
o Relating external events to themselves (personalization);
o Forming your identity on the basis of imperfections (labeling);
o Thinking in terms of black-or-white, either-or extremes (dichotomous thinking).
Strengths-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Based on a much simpler idea: People are often more resilient in certain areas of their lives, such as areas they are interested in or are naturally strong in, such as playing video games. Based on this, they learn to explore exactly how they are resilient when performing these activities and learn to apply them in the more challenging areas of their lives. In other words, the basis for their resilience technique is found in their strengths.
Based on these three forms of CBT, you can see how there is not just one way to cognitively modify your thoughts. But the evidence is clear: A deliberate plan to target your negative thoughts can affect your behavior and emotions in a positive way. There are many instances where attending this type of therapy for a few times a week for just a few weeks can have an incredible impact on your positivity. It takes work, but is doable. For more information on this approach, check out these books:
The Feeling Good Handbook Dr. David D. Burns
The Body Keeps the Score Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
There's also a wonderful article that helps lay out how you can perform CBT on your own without a therapist. Check it out here.