What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
The type of therapy we primarily use at Evolve Counseling Services is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is supported by a large body of research that consistently indicates it is effective in treating depression and anxiety.
CBT is based on the fact that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all influence each other. For example, if a person thinks “I am a failure,” then their emotions will be affected, and it’s likely they will feel upset, defeated, sad, or a number of other negative emotions. As a result of these feelings, their behavior is affected, and they withdraw from other people. Once they isolate, they may start to feel lonely and worse about themself. These feelings cause them to think “Not only am I a failure, but no one likes me.” In the figure below, we can see the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Due to the physiology of our brains, we can’t just stop ourselves from feeling negative emotions when they come up. We have to affect negative emotions through other means. Those other means in CBT are thoughts and behaviors. If we make changes to our thinking and we make changes to our behavior, our feelings will be different.
In CBT, cognitive restructuring is the process of recognizing problematic thinking patterns and examining them to question how accurate they are. Through this process, we are able to see the flaws in our thinking and correct our thoughts to be more objective and accurate. Depression and anxiety are largely maintained through faulty thinking. We tell ourselves highly negative messages and horror stories that fuel depression and anxiety. When we examine the messages, dismantle them, and develop more balanced thinking, depression and anxiety are reduced. This process creates more positive feelings and optimism about oneself, others, and the world.
“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” ~Shakespeare (Hamlet)
Cognitive restructuring trains us to recognize and change our interpretation of events. If we apply a depressed or anxious interpretation to our world, our world looks bleak, and we feel badly about it.
However, if we can remove the faulty interpretation via cognitive restructuring, then we see the world more objectively and our negative feelings are reduced.
The behavioral side of CBT examines what behaviors are in place that may be contributing to depression and anxiety. Isolating, over-working, not eating well, not exercising, over or under sleeping, being passive, avoiding fears, participating in unhealthy relationships, and not managing time well are a few behaviors that we know keep depression and anxiety locked in place. Behavior change is about identifying what behaviors are not working, creating concrete plans to act differently, and changing feelings as a result of the new behaviors.
Wrapping it up…
CBT is an evidence-based, pragmatic approach to treating depression and anxiety. Although we will only meet once per week in session, clients actively work (every day) on changing their thinking and their behavior to feel better. We train our clients in CBT step by step so they develop a solid skill set they can take with them and apply throughout their lives.