CBT – It has been proven effective for anxiety and other mental health problems, but What exactly is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT for short) is a form of psychotherapy that is used to treat various forms of mental disorders including depression, phobias and a variety of disorders, such as anxiety, mood and personality, in both children as well as adults. It was developed in its current structure by Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck between the 1950s – 1960s. CBT emphasises the consequences of thinking on our feelings and our actions.
Individuals suffering from mental disorders such as severe depression often hold the belief that they are worthless or constantly in danger. As such, a change in the person’s thinking and feeling has proven to be an effective form of treatment.
CBT is a combination of two forms of psychotherapy, namely:
- Cognitive Therapy – In this part of the therapy, the therapist teaches the client how to identify the various thinking patterns that can, in themselves, cause the symptoms of their disorders, i.e. the distortion of the facts that they are presented within everyday life. Information of the client’s history, recent experiences and future predictions are used to respond to such views.
- Behaviour Therapy – This is involved with the gradual wearing down or loosening of the connections between the situation and the client’s usual reaction to them, such as fear or rage. It aims to implement the feelings of relaxation and clarity in thinking to make better decisions. It also helps the client to engage in sociable activities and enhance their problem-solving skills.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy enables an individual to develop wellness of the mind and has the following characteristics:
- It is based on the Cognitive Model of Emotional Response whereby the individual is taught that it is our thoughts that are responsible for our feelings and behaviours and as such they learn how to change their way of thinking and acting when faced with a situation.
- It takes up a very short time-period, with an average number of therapy sessions standing at less than 20 sessions.
- It recognises that a good therapeutic relationship is essential for successful treatment but acknowledges that it is not the focus. CBT therapists believe that clients change when they are taught to think in a different way.
- The CBT theory and techniques encourage individuals to look at their thoughts as hypotheses that are to be questioned and subsequently answered. If they prove that the hypothesis is incorrect, the individual then learns to change their thinking in line with the situation as it is.
- CBT is structured and focused. The therapists have a specific agenda for every session, changing only when there are plausible reasons.
- Homework is a fundamental feature of CBT. Homework projects, or assignments, are developed to speed the individual’s progress as much as possible with active participation.
A common technique used in CBT is the four-column technique that consists of a four-step process. The ﬁrst three steps examine the method by which the client has developed depression or an intense negative feeling regarding a problem encountered.
In this technique, the ﬁrst column describes the situation. In the second column, the client then writes down the various negative thoughts that occur to them. The third column is where the client notes down the negative feelings and dysfunctional behaviours which developed.
The negative thoughts of the second column are portrayed as a bridge between the situation and the subsequent distressing feelings. The fourth column is then used to confront the negative thoughts based on facts from the client’s experience.
Some psychologists and psychiatrist including world-renown psychiatrist Dr. David D. Burns (author of best seller book Feeling Good) reports that,
“CBT is an effective treatment that has shown equal effectiveness as the use of conventional psychiatric drugs with over 75% of clients showing a signiﬁcant improvement.”
Dr. Burn’s research has also shown evidence that CBT can be effective in preventing a relapse at the end of the treatment. I strongly recommend that you read Dr. Burns’ invaluable self-help book to develop wellness of your mind.