When mental health issues become unbearable and adversely affect the quality of life, people seek professional help from psychologists and psychotherapists. The latter may use a great variety of treatment approaches, such as psychoanalysis, humanistic therapy, cognitive therapy, etc. or combine them all to address each patient’s needs more effectively. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most widespread evidence-based approaches to treating many mental health issues (O’Donohue & Fisher, 2012). This therapy is the variation of the behavioral approach that emerged in the 1950s, and its main advantage is that it focuses on both patient’s thoughts and behavior. In this essay, I aim to describe CBT in detail, focusing on its therapeutic effect, processes, and applications in practice.
The main principles of CBT developed in the 1970s when it became clear that the contradictory behavioral therapy cannot address patients’ needs properly. Scholars gradually came to the conclusion that improving cognitive skills is far more important than modifying behavior (Benjamin et al., 2011). Research showed that using improved cognitive abilities can help achieve long-term behavior modification, thus ensuring sustainable change. This conclusion was based on the belief that a person’s feelings and behaviors stem not from external stimuli but his/her thoughts (Turner & Napolitano, 2010). Therefore, the main focus of the therapy should be on shaping patients’ thoughts to empower them to deal with mental issues effectively (O’Donohue & Fisher, 2012).
The main assumption promoted by CBT is that a patient can alter his/ her feelings, emotions, and behaviors by controlling thoughts causing disturbance and stress (Robertson, 2010). It is based on the belief that different types of patients have certain pervasive errors of cognition, which means that the therapy should be directed at changing or eliminating these negative uncontrolled thoughts. During treatment sessions, the therapist discusses all negative thoughts, emotions, and actions that disturb the patient. They talk about how these issues affect daily life and personal experiences and how they may be changed to achieve long-term mental well-being (O’Donohue & Fisher, 2012). After deciding what changes should be made to achieve the positive outcomes, the therapist asks the patient to practice them in real life. All challenges faced by a person during this transformation are discussed during the sessions so that a patient feels empowered to deal with issues independently.
CBT can be used with various groups of patients to deal with numerous mental health problems in different social contexts (Turner & Napolitano, 2010). It has been proven effective in the treatment of phobias, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and so on. This approach is also helpful in treating patients with post-traumatic stress disorder because it teaches them to fight negative emotions and memories and accept them as part of their life experience (Turner & Napolitano, 2010). Patients with bulimia and anorexia may also benefit from CBT because it helps to look differently at some of the pervasive thoughts and feeling and use this new perspective to initiate positive behavioral changes. As seen, CBT is a flexible therapy that suits the needs or different population groups with various mental health issues.
To summarize, CBT is one of the most widespread therapeutic approaches currently used by therapists to treat mental illnesses. Unlike its predecessor – behavioral therapy – CBT is more comprehensive because it focuses on both thoughts and actions as two interrelated concepts. People undergoing CBT have an opportunity to analyze their thoughts and behavior and seek ways to change them in their daily life. Given its simplicity and flexibility, this approach is successfully used to treat different mental health issues across different population groups. People of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from CBT because it allows viewing mental health issues from the new perspective.
Benjamin, C. L., Puleo, C. M., Settipani, C. A., Brodman, D. M., Edmunds, J. M., Cummings, C. M., & Kendall, P. C. (2011). History of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in youth. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am., 20(2), 179–189. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2011.01.011
O’Donohue, W. T., & Fisher, J. E. (2012). Cognitive behavior Therapy: Core principles for practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Robertson, D. (2010). The philosophy of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): Stoic philosophy as rational and cognitive psychotherapy. London: Karnac Books.
Turner, R., & Napolitano, S.M. S. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Educational Psychology Papers and Publications. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1146&context=edpsychpapers
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