Why Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

From the lecture series: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — Techniques for Retraining Your Brain

We all have things we want to change about ourselves–whether we want to stop negative thinking, quit our bad habits, worry less, and enjoy more… But changing well-established patterns of behavior, reaction, and emotional response can seem impossible. However, one way to invoke lasting change in your life can be found with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

By Jason M. Satterfield, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
image of therapist talking to woman for cognitive behavior therapy article

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a well-tested collection of practical techniques that can help you nip this cycle in the bud. It is an approach almost anyone—from market researchers, to professionals who practice, to anyone who just wants to change bad habits—can use for promoting greater mental health and improving quality of life.

Learn more about how you can train your brain to improve motivation, management of emotions, and interpersonal skills

The foundation of this practice is to help people manage their moods and modify undesirable behaviors through self-awareness, critical analysis, and taking steps toward gradual, goal-oriented change. You learn to become aware of your reactions and change your frame of mind before the distorted patterns of thinking take over.

Learn more about how CBT is the collaborative journey the therapist and patient

If that sounds a bit too complex, consider the practical, everyday benefits of learning about the practice and science behind cognitive behavioral therapy.

This is a transcript from the video series Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your Brain. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

  • Know thyself. Understanding where your emotions come from can help you understand your own personality and world-view better.
  • Know thy-others. As you better learn how to read your own emotional responses, you can transfer that knowledge into reading and understanding the emotional responses of others. This action can open the door to better and clearer communications and relationships.
  • Stop, think, react. If you’re someone who tends to have trouble keeping your feelings in check, wears your emotions on your sleeve, or gives in to knee-jerk reactions, CBT can help you learn how to be mindful of this tendency, consider all the factors, and provide a better thought-out and rational response.
  • But don’t stop and think too much. The other side of the coin are those people who overthink, internalize, and make situations much worse in their own heads. CBT can help you curb that tendency, let go of grudges or negative feelings, and slow–even stop–the downward spiral that results.
  • Trigger happy. We all have sensitive spots, and CBT can help you recognize and handle emotional triggers even when they are beyond your control.
  • Breaking bad habits. Smoking, eating disorders, alcoholism, gambling, self-harm, even nail-biting are all unhealthy behaviors that people often struggle to overcome. CBT will help you better understand the root of the addiction, enhancing the healing process.
  • Heal thyself. Medication and therapy are common solutions for anxiety, depression, anger, insomnia, social anxiety, and other issues. CBT teaches you an explicit skillset that lasts long after therapy might end and may help you reduce the reliance on medication as you retrain your brain.
  • Understand therapy. Therapy can be an intimidating concept if you’re not familiar with how it works. By watching therapy scenarios, you can get a sense of what to expect whether it’s to help stress, anger, anxiety and depression, grief, or relationship conflict.
  • Embrace failure. We won’t always succeed, and that is a trigger for many people’s downward spirals. CBT can help you learn how to find success through analyzing situations in which you failed to achieve your goals.
  • Toolkits for any situation. Even if you are trying CBT for a specific problem, you’ll find the resources provided and the insights you gain can be applicable to a myriad of situations–some of which you can’t possibly predict, yet you’ll find yourself prepared to handle.

Learn more about the fascinating process of active cognition in CBT

No matter what motivates you to consider CBT, you can use it to create lasting change in your life simply with the power of your own mind.

Common Questions About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Q: What kind of theory is behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is built on the theory of the complex interaction and interlacing of how we think, feel and act.

Q: What exactly is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a psychotherapy treatment that involves talking between the therapist and the patient with the intention of challenging limited beliefs or negative self-talk and using a variety of tools to establish healthier thought patterns and more constructive internal dialogue.

Q: How long does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy take to show effects?

Typically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is done in hour-long sessions for between 5 and 20 weeks depending on the severity of the case.

Q: What disorders does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tend to treat?

Of the many disorders that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treats, depression, OCD, and panic disorder are some of the most common.

This article was updated on 12/14/2019

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