Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that has been repeatedly proven to be effective for a wide variety of problems including depression, anxiety, anger, phobias, PTSD, OCD, hair pulling, and many other issues. CBT has also been shown to be as, or more effective than medications for some problems. CBT helps clients target and change the unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns that cause psychological problems to persist.
For example, Do you find yourself focusing on the negative aspects of encounters or situations? Have you noticed that your behaviours have changed and that you have started to avoid being around people or put on hold hobbies or goals that were once important to you? Maybe you have noticed a variety of physical sensations that are associated with feeling fearful for no reason? Maybe you have become preoccupied with your health and checking your body for symptoms? These are the types of problems that CBT tackles.
CBT is focused on changing what can be changed and is therefore largely focused on the present. It is a time-limited, goal-directed treatment focused on teaching life-long skills to cope with psychological problems. It relies on active collaboration between the client and therapist, and requires clients to complete exercises between sessions. By the end of treatment clients will have learned to become “their own therapist”, with a set of tools that help them to continue working on the factors that may predispose them to symptom relapses.
Skill Components of CBT
Some of the most common strategies learned/taught under the umbrella of CBT include: symptom monitoring, exposure, response prevention, habit-reversal training, assertiveness training, problem-solving, restructuring negative thoughts, goal-setting, relaxation training, mindfulness, and challenging negative beliefs.
What Does “Evidence-Based Treatment” Mean?
It means that CBT treatment has been rigorously studied in hospital-based studies that used a randomized control trial design (RCT). RCT’s have typically compared those who received CBT to those receiving other types of treatment such as other therapies or medication. Before research studies can be published in medical or psychological journals, it is reviewed and accepted by experts in the field based on whether it adheres to certain high standards. Due to the many published studies showing CBT’s effectiveness, it is now considered a “gold standard” treatment for many psychological problems.
Common Obstacles to Taking the First Step Toward Change
As you are reading this, you may be thinking “this won’t work for me” or that “nothing will change”. You may also be thinking “I’ve tried many things before which haven’t worked and this won’t be any different”, or that you are “different from other people”. You may think that it just isn’t in you to make positive and lasting changes in your life or that change will be impossible. As a result you may be feeling hopeless and helpless. These feelings are not uncommon to people experiencing chronic difficulties but they may be preventing you from taking the first step toward change. CBT is effective in breaking the debilitating cycle these types of thoughts and feelings create.
As a final note, when people think about the philosophy of CBT – to challenge negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviors – they may perceive this mission to be too simplistic to resolve their difficulties. They may also think that their own efforts to think “more positively” have not worked in the past, or that while they are able to think of different perspectives on a situation, they just don’t believe it. Many clients have reported these same types of concerns however they have been alleviated throughout the course of treatment as they began to experience positive changes through the CBT approach.
Here is a TED Talk featuring Dr. David Burns which provides a brief history and some insight into some CBT techniques
Please visit the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) website for more detailed information about the CBT Approach: