CBT is a type of psychotherapy that deals with our thoughts – it is “cognitive” part of the name – and our behaviour, which of course is the “behaviour” part of the name. CBT has been intensively researched and found to be an effective treatment for all types of disorders. Some of these are depression, anxiety, trauma, phobias, addictions, eating disorders, and I can go on and on, but you get the point. In some cases, the treatment may be effective in just 8 sessions, and the effects are long-lasting.
Well, let’s talk about the principle that is the basis of all this. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts influence our feelings and our behaviours. When something happens to us, we use thought to explain the event, which, by the way, can happen so fast that we don’t always notice it happening. Then finally, we react to our thoughts with feelings and behaviours. Here is a quick example. You call your friend and they don’t answer. Now, two different people can have two different views about the same situation. Person A may think: “My friend must be busy”. Person B may think: “My friend doesn’t like me”.
Person A is going to feel fine, and will probably just send a text or something. Person B is ready to feel sad, and they can focus on what they could have done to upset their friend.
This is called an irrational belief. The irrational belief that occurred when Person B thought their friends didn’t like them is not actually evidenced. All they know is that their friend didn’t answer the phone, and they add to this in their thoughts. During CBT a therapist will try to help his or her client identify their own irrational beliefs.
It can be more challenging than it seems. Remember what I said earlier, these thoughts can happen so quickly that we don’t even notice them. When this happens, they are called automatic thoughts, because they happen automatically outside of our awareness. Next, the therapist will help the client challenge their irrational beliefs. This doesn’t mean trying to make all their thoughts positive and happy. This means making them less negative, and a little less irrational. Usually when a client is able to do this, they start to feel a little better. CBT therapists also try to help by directly addressing the behaviour. Someone who is anxious or depressed usually has some behaviour that is contributing to their problems. For example, someone with social anxiety may avoid going out with friends, which will make them less friends in the long run. Things like this can often lead to thoughts like: “I don’t have any friends, it must be because I’m so weird”, which will then worsen their social anxiety due to their fear that they are strange. A therapist will help by trying to change these behaviours that contribute to negative thoughts and feelings. One final big question: Why do some people have these irrational negative thoughts, while others don’t? Why did person A think their friend was busy, while person B thought their friend should be upset with them? One explanation is that everyone has different core beliefs. These are the beliefs we hold that fundamentally shape how we see the world. Imagine our beliefs as a lens. everyone is a little different shadow. The lens of person A says “people are kind” and “I am a good person”. Person B says “I am not lovable” and “I am worthless”. When individuals A and B go into the world, they experience everything through the lens of their core beliefs. Often, these beliefs can be negative and self-defeating. CBT can be used to gain these core beliefs and replace those that are not beneficial. In a nutshell, CBT is a type of psychotherapy that explores how a person thinks, and what they do in an effort to change how they feel and act in their lives. CBT has been found to be very effective as a treatment for all types of disorders.