Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is one of the most widely practiced methods psychologists use to help people overcome their obstacles to health and happiness. It’s based on collaborative dialogue between an individual and a psychologist in a supportive and non judgemental environment. There are many different forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy is commonly used to help people identify and change irrational or unrealistic beliefs that have a negative influence on mood and behavior.
When people are focused on their psychological problems and challenges, it is commonly believed that they are “thinking” about them. However, when emotions and thoughts run through your mind, does that really mean that you are thinking about them? What is the difference between having a thought, idea, or feeling and thinking? Although most people may not realize it, there is a big difference between having thoughts and feelings about something and actually thinking about it. The term “cognitive” refers to conscious intellectual activity, and it is this activity (or thinking) that is the focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In a very general way, CBT helps people to think about, reason, and logically consider the psychological problems and challenges that affect them rather than just react to the emotions they feel about them.
If you’re struggling with mental and emotional health challenges — such as anxiety, depression, relationship issues, or behavioral disorders — it’s likely that CBT can help. It can be used alone or in combination with other therapies to help treat a wide range of problems. For a psychologist who is skilled in the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy in Los Angeles, please contact Blair Wellness Group to schedule an appointment.
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works
CBT is an evidence-based treatment approach based on several core principles. It is believed that psychological challenges are rooted in misguided or inaccurate ways of thinking that, in turn, contribute to learned patterns of unhelpful or self-destructive behaviors. The ultimate goal of CBT is to replace self-limiting thoughts with more realistic and encouraging ones. This is accomplished by learning to recognize distorted patterns of thinking through introspection and self-discovery. Once the negative thoughts are identified, the individual can gain a better understanding of how faulty assumptions may be driving problematic actions.
CBT involves direct communication and discussion between the patient and the psychologist. Its focus is to identify the nature of negative thoughts, ideas, and emotions and create an analytic attitude with the ability to challenge content and negativity in order to reduce, ameliorate, or eliminate adverse effects on the behavior of the patient. Unlike the stereotyped therapies that involve a long series of personality analyses and questionable immediate benefits, with CBT, the course of therapy is typically short and to the point with positive results often arising fairly rapidly. CBT achieves these positive results through the application of a variety of approaches and techniques.
For those who are dealing with psychological challenges, it’s important to understand the potential impact of fearful, negative, or unrealistic thoughts. Being stuck in this pattern of thinking can make a person jump to conclusions, see situations as catastrophic when they really aren’t and struggle with ongoing emotional difficulties. Through psychotherapy sessions that include CBT, these damaging thoughts can be identified, challenged, and then ultimately replaced with more helpful and positive ones. Individuals gain a better understanding of others’ behavior, learn problem-solving skills to cope with challenging situations, and develop a greater sense of confidence.
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Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A major objective of CBT is to help the patient recognize and understand the unhealthy thought patterns that are the source of symptoms and adverse effects related to psychological stress, problems, and challenges. Unhealthy thoughts and ideas contribute to the development of moods, which in turn become the source of undesirable and inappropriate behaviors. So, by approaching and preparing the patient with methods to recognize, understand, confront, and deter negative thoughts and ideas, the resulting behavior can be changed.
At the heart of CBT therapy is the acknowledgment and understanding of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are erroneous and unproductive ways of thinking which can adversely affect emotions, mood, and behavior. They’re the biased perspectives that lead people to consistently interpret situations in unhelpful ways. To put it another way, cognitive distortions can be described as the mind playing tricks or altering our sense of reality thereby limiting flexible thinking and making individuals believe things that simply aren’t true.
One critical objective of CBT is to prepare the client with an awareness and understanding of what these distortions are and how they work to therapeutically diminish their adverse power and effects on the patient. The rigid thinking that is influenced by cognitive distortions might only allow you to see things in one way — but learning to counter this limited perspective and develop a more flexible way of thinking can significantly improve a variety of mental health challenges.
The following is a brief description of some of the most common cognitive distortions.
1) Personalization: This is an overemphasis on the belief that everything, in some way or another, relates to you. It’s a belief that you are the central causative agent and any blame or fault for things that happen is yours. The error of this cognitive distortion is that, in fact, that are usually a number of causative factors, and just because something happens to you or in relation to you, that you are responsible for it is likely not true. Thus, personalization leads to mistaken and erroneous judgments on yourself that are wrong or out of proportion.
2) Blaming: Related to personalization, in this cognitive distortion, the person feels guilty and blames him or herself for the things that happen. An example of this is when a woman is raped, she comes to blame herself for it in some way or another — she was dressed too sexily, she was provocative in her behavior, or in some way, she consciously or unconsciously invited the sexualization of a situation that led to the rape. This is mistaken thinking because these factors identified by the victim may have had nothing to do with the motivation for the rape by the rapist who acted due to his own psychological problems. Thus, self-blaming for things that were not necessarily due to causation by oneself is erroneous thinking.
3) Emotional Reasoning: This is when one’s thinking is dominated by emotions rather than logic and reason. This is where the mindfulness concept of “emotions are not facts” has not been recognized. Individuals with this cognitive distortion try to reason based on emotional ideas and experiences, but these are not rational or logical and should not serve as the basis for rational thought and decision-making in behavior. Thus, this cognitive distortion can cause one to reason illogically based on their emotions and come to false conclusions about themselves, their thoughts and ideas, and other people’s thoughts and ideas, as well.
4) Filtering: Some people focus on the negative aspects of life rather than the positive, but, even worse, they focus on things that they identify as negative about themselves and the people and events around them. This is negative filtering, and it is a way of thinking that is, to a great extent, self-defeating. What is even worse is that they become obsessed with some negative aspects of life, people around them, or themselves. CBT seeks to alter this way of thinking and to give the patient the insight to identify and suppress these negative trends in thought and to exchange them for more positive ways of thinking which will yield more desirable results and effects in their lives.
5) “Black and White” Thinking: Often associated with negative filtering is the tendency of seeing everything including ideas, opinions, events, and the actions of oneself and other people, as either 100% one thing or another. The problem is that in life, this is most often a logical fallacy. Ideas, people (even yourself), and events have gradations of negative and positive elements, so they are not 100% one way or another, but somewhere in between. CBT seeks to train individuals to avoid the “black or white” fallacy and to consider ideas, people, and events in more realistic terms instead of being thought of as all good or all bad. In doing so, this contributes to a better understanding of these elements in one’s life.
6) Overgeneralization: Both filtering and “black and white” thinking are examples of the cognitive distortion of overgeneralization. The error of overgeneralization is that it distorts thoughts and decisions when someone mistakenly takes one or two examples and makes a generalization out of it — creating a kind of “universal rule” that they see as particularly effective in their own lives. For example, if one has had bad experiences in the past with people from a particular state, the overgeneralizing person will make the assumption that all of the people from that state are problematic in some way or another and therefore may avoid or shun them. Overgeneralization leads to stereotyping, by generalizing certain characteristics of a few members of some sector of people or society and making the false assumption that these characteristics are typical of all members of that people or social group. Thus, overgeneralization leads one to make false assumptions and decisions based on too little or prejudiced information.
7) Jumping to Conclusions: The next illogical step from overgeneralization and stereotyping is jumping to conclusions based on these two fallacies. In both cases where overgeneralization and stereotyping are used to guide thoughts, opinions, and actions, decision-making will also result in being erroneous and mistaken. Jumping to conclusions leads to false attitudes and actions that can be psychologically damaging to oneself and other people. For example, you might conclude that, because someone gave you a strange look or made a questionable remark that they dislike or hate you, when in fact, they were likely not talking about you at all. This incorrect conclusion is based on too little information that ultimately affects your behavior toward that other person. Therefore, one should avoid coming to hasty conclusions without significant input as that can lead to psychologically damaging thoughts and actions.
Other Cognitive Distortions
The examples above are just some of the cognitive distortions which can be the cause of psychological problems. There are others, such as the belief that life or people are treating you unfairly, labeling (associated with stereotypes), the belief that you can change other people in ways that are important to you but not necessarily to them, the preoccupation with always being right, and the belief that “heaven” or some outward power is directing your life and controlling your actions to damage you in some way.
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Uses for CBT
The objective of Cognitive Behavior Therapy is to recognize the fallacies behind thought patterns that can adversely affect psychological well-being, and instead, substitute for them more positive, honest, logical, and reasonable ways of thinking which lead to improved mental health and fewer psychological problems.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be effective for treating a large number of mental health disorders. Some of them include:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Sleep Disorders
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorders
- Sexual Disorders
- Substance Use Disorders
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At its core, cognitive behavioral therapy is about identifying and modifying negative thought patterns — but there are several different techniques used to accomplish this overall goal. The following is a brief overview of some of the methods that may be used during CBT sessions.
Psychologist may engage in questioning aimed at developing awareness and identifying troublesome areas as well as the negative thought patterns and assumptions that may be causing them.
Self-talk can also be described as your inner voice. It is the combination of thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that you feel, but don’t necessarily express out loud. When working with a psychologist during CBT, clients may be asked to explain instances of negative self-talk and then be given the opportunity to restructure that inner discussion to be more realistic and constructive.
Cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t just happen in the psychologist office. By writing down negative or self-defeating thoughts that occur in everyday situations, you can address them as they happen and nurture more productive ways of thinking.
Learn Problem-Solving Skills
Changing negative thought patterns is sometimes easier said than done. When faced with a particularly difficult challenge, it can be easy to resort to old ways of thinking and self-destructive behavior. CBT can help individuals learn problem-solving skills that they can apply to real-world situations so they are better prepared to handle whatever may come their way.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that brings awareness to the present moment, promoting greater focus, deeper reflection, and insight into one’s innermost thoughts and feelings. It also allows individuals to reflect on their challenges with greater clarity.
Benefits of CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the central concept that behavior is driven by thoughts and feelings — whether they are negative or positive, realistic, or false. By learning to control how you interpret your feelings about the people and events around you, you can ultimately change unproductive and maladaptive behaviors.
Whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition, need help coping with emotional challenges, or you’re just looking to improve your outlook on life, CBT is a powerful tool that can provide many benefits. Cognitive behavioral therapy can show you that even though you may not be able to control your environment, it’s possible to control how you feel and react to things, and that can make all the difference.
What To Expect From Therapy
CBT is one of the most well-studied forms of therapy and has been proven to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. However, like all mental health disorders, therapy can look different for each person. Used by itself or in conjunction with other therapies and/or prescription medications, Cognitive Behavior Therapy can have significant positive results in affecting the psychological outlook and attitudes of patients. Remember, however, that these therapies do not remove the source of problems — that is not the role of psychological counseling. The purpose is to provide the client with knowledge, understanding, and techniques that allow them to respond to the people and circumstances in their life which cause psychological distress.
CBT is often paired with other forms of psychotherapy and the length of therapy can vary depending on the type of disorder and severity of your symptoms. At Blair Wellness Group, we tailor our services to meet the unique challenges and goals of each of our clients using the optimum combination of therapies and treatments to achieve the most effective results.
Contact Blair Wellness Group for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help with a wide range of mental and emotional health challenges. It brings awareness to self-sabotaging thoughts and teaches people how to replace them with healthier, more constructive thinking patterns. In addition to this, CBT helps people face their fears, teaches problem-solving skills, and shows how modifying learned patterns of thinking can result in positive changes in behavior and a greater sense of self-confidence.
At Blair Wellness Group in Beverly Hills, we offer concierge-style care services that are designed to meet the clinical needs of each of our clients. Through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as other therapeutic modalities and evidence-based treatments, Dr. Blair can effectively treat a wide variety of conditions and disorders. To learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy or to discuss your particular needs, please contact our office at 310.999.4996 to make an appointment.
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