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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Cognitive behavior therapy, CBT, is a type of psychotherapy that is focused more on the present and is more goal-oriented or solution focused.  It’s based on the idea that our thoughts or what we think of a situation cause us to feel and act a certain way.  The way we perceive situations influences how we feel emotionally.

Cognitive behavior therapy helps to identify what the distressing thoughts are and how to modify those thoughts in order to feel better.  Often, the distressing thoughts are automatic  and not accurate or realistic so CBT helps to recognize and evaluate the automatic thoughts.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy And Anxiety Disorders

Information from: NIMH
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.

For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them. When people are ready to confront their fears, they are shown how to use exposure techniques to desensitize themselves to situations that trigger their anxieties.

People with OCD who fear dirt and germs are encouraged to get their hands dirty and wait increasing amounts of time before washing them. The therapist helps the person cope with the anxiety that waiting produces; after the exercise has been repeated a number of times, the anxiety diminishes. People with social phobia may be encouraged to spend time in feared social situations without giving in to the temptation to flee and to make small social blunders and observe how people respond to them. Since the response is usually far less harsh than the person fears, these anxieties are lessened. CBT therapists also teach breathing techniques and other types of exercises to relieve anxiety and encourage relaxation.

CBT is undertaken when people decide they are ready for it and with their permission and cooperation. To be effective, the therapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and must be tailored to his or her needs. There are no side effects other than the discomfort of temporarily increased anxiety.

Medication can be combined with psychotherapy for specific anxiety disorders, and this is the best treatment approach for many people.