When things go wrong in life—from your relationship breakup to problems at work or family members—it’s easy to find fault with yourself, but if you get stuck in a repetitive negative thinking spiral, you can feel hopeless, depressed, and physically exhausted.
This is where cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. Unlike other types of psychotherapy, CBT focuses specifically on current problems and challenges rather than past problems.
CBT is based on the theory that it is not the events that upset you, but the meanings you attach to them. If you continue to hold on to the same thought and behavior patterns while not seeing the alternative explanation, it may start to cause you problems. CBT aims to show ways to change negative thoughts and create alternative ways of thinking about your situation.
What is CBT and why is it effective?
In simple terms, CBT is a form of psychotherapy that combines cognitive and behavioral therapies. The cognitive component specifically looks at how our thoughts can create our emotions and moods. Behavioral therapy also studies the relationship between our behaviors and thoughts.
How many CBT sessions do I need?
The number of cognitive therapy sessions depends on your problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy tends to be short-term when problems are not complex. In the preliminary meeting, you can discuss how many sessions it will take.
Conquer your negative thoughts
Cognitive behavioral therapists help you work on your thoughts and behaviors to improve your emotions.
Your psychologist will help you understand overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller pieces. This makes it easy to see how they affect you. For example, your thoughts about a problem can affect how you feel and therefore how you behave physically and emotionally.
You will meet with your CBT psychologist for a series of weekly sessions lasting approximately 60 minutes each. Initially, your psychologist will assess how appropriate the therapy is for your problems and how comfortable you feel in undertaking the treatment.
Your psychologist may want you to keep a diary that will help you identify patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions that will aid this process. Together, they will look at your emotions and behaviors to work out how they are affecting you by your unrealistic or unhelpful thoughts.
Once you’ve identified what you can change, your psychologist can recommend assignments so you can implement those changes in your daily life. This may include questioning distressing thoughts and replacing them with more helpful ones, or recognizing that you will do something that will make you feel worse, and positive actions that are more helpful instead.
Your psychologist will never force you to do things you don’t want to do. They will work with you to help you find ways to manage your current difficulties, and together you will decide on the pace of treatment and how many sessions you may need.
Cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t a quick fix or an instant miracle cure, but one of the biggest benefits of CBT is that you can continue to use the skills in future situations to keep negative thoughts from escalating.