Cognitive therapy is fairly new to the mental health field, but we can actually trace its development back in time 2,600 years to the Buddha and the great emphasis his followers place on watching – and eventually taming – one’s thoughts. There, the goal is eventual enlightenment. Here, we are speaking in relatively more modest terms of saving one’s own life – of watching how you think in certain situations, and making the appropriate adjustments.
What is CBT?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an action-oriented form of psychosocial therapy that assumes that maladaptive, or faulty, thinking patterns cause maladaptive behavior and “negative” emotions. (Maladaptive behavior is behavior that is counter-productive or interferes with everyday living.) The treatment focuses on changing an individual’s thoughts (cognitive patterns) in order to change his or her behavior and emotional state.
Cognitive therapy is a well-researched method of psychological treatment that can be effective for dealing with emotional and behavioral problems. It is a way of talking about:
- How you think about yourself, the world and other people
- How what you do affects your thoughts and feelings.
CBT can help you to change how you think (“Cognitive”) and what you do (“Behaviour)”. These changes can help you to feel better. Unlike some of the other talking treatments, it focuses on the “here and now” problems and difficulties. Instead of focussing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now.
It has been found to be helpful in:
- Agoraphobia and other phobias
- Social phobia
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Post traumatic stress disorder
How effective is CBT?
CBT has been shown in clinical trials to help ease symptoms of various health problems. For example, research studies have shown that a course of CBT is just as effective as medication in treating depression and certain anxiety disorders. There may be long-term benefits of CBT as the techniques to combat these problems can be used for the rest of your life to help to keep symptoms away. So, for example, depression or anxiety are less likely to recur in the future. There is good research evidence too to show that CBT can help to improve symptoms of some physical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy does not suit everyone and it is not helpful for all conditions. You need to be committed and persistent in tackling and improving your health problem with the help of the therapist. Those who don’t have a specific behavioral issue they wish to address and whose goals for therapy are to gain insight into the past may be better served by psychodynamic therapy. Patients must also be willing to take a very active role in the treatment process.
Cognitive-behavioral intervention may be inappropriate for some severely psychotic patients and for cognitively impaired patients (for example, patients with organic brain disease or a traumatic brain injury), depending on their level of functioning.