Therapy is a broad term that can mean a variety of different physical and mental health treatments. Even within the mental health arena, there are different types of therapies. One of the most commonly practiced today, which is also offered at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, CBT is a combination of two different therapeutic approaches: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.
The first piece of CBT is cognitive therapy. The point of cognitive therapy is to recognize your own thoughts, attitudes, and expectations and then change false and distressing beliefs. This approach addresses our own part in causing the issues we face with our own beliefs. One example of a false and distressing belief might include a person who won’t apply for the job they want because they believe they don’t deserve the promotion, in spite of being qualified and capable of the responsibilities of the position.
The second part of CBT is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy assumes that unhealthy behaviors are learned and can thus be unlearned. By determining which of a person’s behaviors is causing them harm, it is possible to help them develop new behaviors. One example of this might be a person who eats unhealthy foods when they become upset because they learned in childhood that this was how they should handle being sad, afraid, or lonely. The therapist might help them to discover new ways to respond when they experience unwanted feelings.
How Is CBT Used?
The National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists describes CBT as a general class of talk therapy approaches that are intended to be brief in nature and centered on finding solutions to current problems. It is not as worried about the past as some forms of therapy. Rational emotive behavior therapy, rational behavior therapy, rational living therapy, cognitive therapy, and dialectic behavior therapy are all types of CBT.
According to the Mayo Clinic, CBT generally seeks to resolve specific problematic behaviors or thought patterns:
- Preventing a relapse of mental illness symptoms
- Learning techniques for coping with stressful life situations
- Identifying ways to manage emotions
- Resolving relationship conflicts
- Learning better ways to communicate
- Processing grief or loss
- Overcoming emotional trauma resulting from violence or abuse
- Coping with medical or mental illnesses
- Managing chronic physical symptoms
Diagnoses That Can Benefit from CBT
CBT can be used to treat a variety of mental and physical health diagnoses, including:
- Sleep disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Chronic pain
- Sexual disorders
What Does CBT Look Like?
CBT often starts with an introductory session where the patient describes their problems and goals are set. The patient may be asked to keep a journal for a certain period of time. The journal may be used in therapy to help the patient adjust their perceptions and behaviors. The practitioner may also teach the patient relaxation exercises, stress and pain relief methods, and tools for problem-solving. The patient may also receive homework, including activities or reading that they are to complete outside of session time.
A single CBT session usually lasts an hour. Sessions are often scheduled on a weekly basis. CBT can be offered individually or in groups. The full duration of CBT treatment tends to be briefer than other types of therapy, but there is no specific time frame for how long a person can be in this form of treatment. A few sessions, up to several months is not uncommon.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as factors that can determine how long a patient should spend in CBT:
- The specific disorder or situation
- Severity of symptoms
- How long symptoms or the situation have been present
- How quickly the patient makes progress
- Patient stress level
- How much support the patient receives from family and friends
Confidentiality in CBT
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia and anywhere else that a person receives CBT, information a patient shares with their therapist is generally confidential. Exceptions are only made for cases when a person is planning to harm themselves or someone else, when the patient is unable to care for themselves, or when it is revealed that a child or vulnerable adult is being abused.
Getting the Most Out of CBT
As with any form of therapy, the patient’s cooperation level can drastically impact how much progress they experience in CBT. If a guest is receiving CBT at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia or anywhere else, they can get maximum benefits from CBT by taking this advice from the Mayo Clinic:
- Treat therapy like a partnership. Be actively engaged in decision-making during therapy. Select a therapist who you can agree with about major issues and how to respond to them.
- Be open and honest. Your thoughts, feelings, and experiences are the driving force in CBT. You must also be receptive to new insights and ways of doing things. If painful emotions, embarrassment, or fears about your therapist’s reaction are getting in your way, be sure to tell your therapist this.
- Stick to the plan. Do not skip therapy sessions. When you least feel like going might be when you most need to go. Skipping can disrupt your progress.
- Have realistic expectations for therapy. Working on emotional issues requires hard work and can be painful. Some people feel worse during the initial part of therapy as they begin to confront past and current conflicts. It may take several sessions to see any improvement.
- Do your homework. If the therapist assigns reading, journaling, or other activities outside of sessions, follow through. These assignments will help you apply what you’ve learned.
- If therapy isn’t helping, talk to your therapist. If you have completed several sessions and don’t see progress, talk to your therapist about making some changes or trying a different approach.