Disclaimer: The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp
With so many challenges inherent in our modern lifestyles, we’re fortunate to also have a wide range of mental health resources to meet those challenges. Today, there are more modern therapeutic modalities available than ever before in human history. One of modern medicine’s most often used forms is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a talking therapy that can help people better manage problems by changing the way a person thinks and behaves. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems. If you’re even slightly curious about cognitive behavioral therapy, consider checking out BetterHelp’s advice on CBT therapy.
In this article, we’ll look at how cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective in addressing certain mental health conditions, plus key ways CBT differs from other talk therapies, such as psychodynamic therapy.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is primarily concerned with identifying and addressing the development of negative thought patterns, which can leave a person trapped in a negative thought cycle that leads to a range of symptoms. Whereas treatments such as psychodynamic therapy tend to look more at the underlying causes in one’s subconscious and the trauma of past experiences.
Another way cognitive behavioral therapy tends to differ from certain therapy modalities is in its structure. CBT is generally practiced in a defined structure, which often sets the treatment course at somewhere between 6-20 sessions. Whereas some talk therapies aren’t designed with an end in mind, but view therapy as more of a continual process.
What Mental Conditions Can CBT Treat?
CBT is widely acknowledged to be an effective course of treatment for people experiencing a range of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anorexia, other eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sleep problems such as insomnia, and panic disorder.
Let’s take a look now at some of the most common CBT techniques used to treat these mental health conditions:
Identifying Harmful Cognitive Distortions
A large part of any cognitive behavioral therapy treatment plan is dedicated to identifying harmful cognitive distortions, which stand in the way of holding more positive thoughts. Some of the most common cognitive distortions identified within the practice of CBT include black-and-white thinking, jumping to conclusions, overgeneralizing, blaming others for the way we feel, and catastrophizing events without allowing them to unfold.
Homework exercises are often part of the CBT process. During each session, the therapist will assign exercises for the person receiving treatment to do at home. Journaling is one form of at-home exercise that is considered beneficial enough to be a recommended part of many mental health treatments.
CBT journaling as part of cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful in several ways. Journaling can be used to help identify the cognitive distortions discussed, above. Journaling provides a forum for challenging those cognitive distortions once they’re identified. Once a person is in the habit of finding and rooting out those mental distortions, it’s important to give yourself regular check-ins. Journaling provides an easy way to monitor your mental well-being that involves very little cost or access to specialized treatments.
In addition, CBT journaling can help people set and reach goals by providing a place to record and monitor their progress. As well as provide a safe space for reflection. A large part of the CBT process is just becoming more consciously aware of the many thoughts that flash across a person’s brain on any given day.
Practicing Relaxed Breathing Techniques
If practicing relaxed breathing techniques sounds a lot like mindfulness, that’s because it is. Many mindfulness interventions are also generally accepted CBT practices. There are several methods and techniques for relaxed breathing in CBT, such as counted breathing deep diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing.
Perhaps the best part is that breathing exercises come at zero cost and are always available to you with no need for any equipment or special settings.
Is CBT Right For You?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered one of the most effective treatments for depression and other mental health disorders, and you can experience the benefits of CBT through both a therapist or books and online resources.
But if you’re experiencing symptoms or feelings that overwhelm you, seek immediate professional help. Licensed therapists are trained to provide support and specialized treatments, such as CBT. Just remember, there’s help out there. You don’t have to do it alone.