Why Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

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Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a psychotherapeutic technique that addresses negative thought patterns. Your thoughts affect your emotions and behaviors. The idea is that if you can positively change your thought patterns, you’ll feel better and be able to cope with difficult situations. CBT is a popular talk therapy technique among medical providers, but why and how does cognitive behavioral therapy work?

At A Cognitive Connection, we help Colorado Springs residents understand and improve brain function. We provide various therapies and sensory techniques to improve focus, memory, visual perception, auditory processing, and more. We want to help children and adults in our community experience the best possible quality of life. Let us know how we can help you.

Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a collaborative treatment strategy where the patient and psychologist work together to identify the problem and develop a solution. The American Psychological Association recognizes three core principles of CBT: 

  1. First, psychological problems are partially based on unhelpful ways of thinking.
  2. Second, psychological problems are partially based on unhelpful patterns of behavior.
  3. Third, people with psychological problems can learn better ways to cope and experience less severe symptoms.
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Though the idea that our thoughts affect the way we live is centuries old, CBT has only been around for about 50 years. CBT is a structured way of addressing negative thought patterns and replacing them with more helpful ways of thinking. These negative thought patterns can also be referred to as cognitive distortions

CBT doesn’t provide new information but shows patients how their thinking leads to certain negative emotions and responses. Often CBT requires a lot of repetition. It’s like trying to get physically fit. An exercise feels unnatural the first time you do it but gets easier with consistent practice. CBT allows you to build the cognitive “muscles” needed to cope with a stressor with the help and guidance of a therapist.

CBT Session Structure

A typical CBT treatment schedule will include weekly appointments for 12-20 weeks. We’ve covered why cognitive behavioral therapy works, but what does it look like? Though therapists may use slightly different session structures, they will usually follow these steps:

Mood Check

A mood check helps the therapist establish therapeutic reliance and ease into the session. The therapist may have their patients fill out a questionnaire before the session. It’s also an excellent time to address any negative feelings or note anything that should be revisited during the agenda.

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Discuss the Week

The therapist will ask if anything occurred during the week that they should know about. This check-in offers a bridge into the session and might indicate other areas of concern for the agenda.

Follow Up on Action Plan

Therapists usually assign homework, such as journaling thoughts the patient to practice a new thought pattern during the week. Following up on the action plan keeps the patient accountable. It also allows them to celebrate any wins throughout the week.

Collaboratively Set Agenda

The therapist will ask the patient what they feel is the most essential thing to cover during the session. They can also check in on upcoming events the patient might be stressed about or suggest agenda items from the earlier conversation.

Discuss Agenda Items

The therapist will help identify negative thought patterns and work with the patient on cognitive reframing. Other common techniques include exposure therapy and guided discovery.

Assign Homework

The therapist will give the patient a new action plan for the week.

Summary and Feedback 

The therapist will ask what stood out to them during the session and how they can apply it. They will also ask for feedback, which allows the patient to express what techniques they liked or disliked.

What Can CBT Treat?

Most individuals have negative thought patterns that can be addressed with CBT, even if they don’t realize it. CBT is a common treatment for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, phobias, and other mental illnesses. 

In addition, CBT can be used as a short-term treatment for individuals going through a challenging life event, such as a divorce or the death of a family member. CBT doesn’t make the problem disappear but helps you develop a healthy response and heal over time.

Discuss Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with A Cognitive Connection

If you are ready to address negative thought patterns and reclaim your life, contact A Cognitive Connection today. Our licensed counselors would love to help you develop a positive mindset and improve your quality of life. Even if CBT is not suitable for you, we can recommend other highly-effective therapies and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

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