Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a short-term, problem-focused method of psychotherapy that research has shown to be effective in treating a wide array of the most common problems for which people seek professional help. Originally developed to treat depression, CBT has also been shown to be effective in treating:

* Anxiety Disorders (Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, Phobia)
* Eating Disorders
* Co-Occurring Disorders
* Bipolar Disorder
* Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

CBT combines methods aimed at changing the erroneous, dysfunctional, or distorted thoughts or beliefs (*cognitive* in CBT) and counterproductive *behaviors* that contribute to an individual’s suffering. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy that seek to provide insight or understanding of the source of an individual’s problems, CBT is problem-focused and aims to teach individuals new skills to cope with or overcome the problems for which they are seeking help.

Research has shown that individuals with distorted or irrational thoughts or beliefs are more vulnerable to mood disturbances like depression and anxiety. A CBT therapist will guide the client to challenge their irrational beliefs and replace them with rational, realistic alternatives. For instance, a depressed mother might express “I yelled at my children. I am a bad parent.” Taken at face value, the thought “I am a bad parent”, if it were true, would be sufficient to make most parents quite depressed. In reality, however, there is no such thing as a purely “good” or “bad” parent. A more rational appraisal might be “I yelled at my children, which upsets me. I don’t want my children to have a parent that yells at them. However, my yelling does not make me a ‘bad parent’ just as no single act could qualify me as a ‘good parent’. I can work on my yelling by learning more effective parenting methods. I can read books. I can take classes. I can talk to other parents.” Research has shown that this form of balanced self-appraisal renders an individual far less likely to develop a mood disorder.

In addition to challenging and replacing maladaptive thoughts or cognitions, CBT also aims to change behaviors that are problematic in themselves (such as problematic use of alcohol) or that support a mood disorder, such as anxiety. For example, individuals that suffer from anxiety tend to avoid or flee situations that make them anxious. Avoidance, however, leads to anxiety reduction, thus reinforcing avoidance behavior. This sets up a vicious spiral in which the individual’s avoidance reinforces their anxiety, which contributes to more avoidance, and so on. A CBT therapist might help this individual by teaching them how to self-soothe and stay relaxed in gradually increasing anxiety-provoking settings. Over time, the individual will be able to remain in previously anxiety-provoking settings without fleeing, thus reversing the vicious spiral and promoting greater confidence that they can manage their own anxiety.

At Great Lakes Psychology Group, many of our therapists are trained and experienced in the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy.