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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Mental Health

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?,How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work?,How is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Different, CBT

One of our primary therapeutic modalities here at Miramont Behavioral Health is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT is evidence-based, and its effectiveness for a variety of mental health conditions is well-documented

If you’ve never experienced therapy, you may imagine a lot of talking about your past and maybe even about your dreams. You may imagine visiting your therapist weekly for years on end. While some talk therapy styles do look like this, CBT is different. Let’s take a look.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

CBT has its origins in two types of therapy: cognitive (working with thoughts) and behavior (working with behaviors). It became pretty clear near the beginning that thoughts and behaviors influence each other and that it would make sense to work with both when helping people overcome mental health struggles.

CBT is based on the premise that the thoughts we have are, for the most part, automatic and often negative. These automatic thoughts generate themselves constantly and, because we tend to believe that our thoughts are true, they can have a major impact on how we see ourselves and the world. A cognitive-behavioral therapist helps a client step back and observe what types of thoughts they have and when. By becoming aware of how our thoughts work, we have more power to intervene and correct them. 

How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work?

Let’s look at an example: anxiety disorder. Someone with an anxiety disorder has predominantly anxious thoughts. They may find that they tend to “catastrophize” by seeing worst-case scenarios for every upcoming event. For instance, if they have to attend a party, they may imagine everything that could go wrong, from finding parking to choosing what to wear to all the ways they might embarrass themselves.

After the event, they may engage in “filtering,” focusing only on the negative aspects and brushing off or not even noticing the positive. For instance, they may ruminate on all the things that went wrong (they should have talked to so-and-so; they forgot their friend’s boyfriend’s name; they ate too much) instead of what they enjoyed or what went well (they found free parking; they received a compliment on their shirt; they made someone laugh–in a good way). 

A therapist will help this person first become aware of the ways they tend to think and then to question those thinking patterns. As the client comes to understand their thoughts, they’ll start to see how those thoughts affect their behaviors. Maybe their thoughts keep them from going to parties at all–it’s much easier to just stay home and not deal with the anxiety, after all. Or maybe their thoughts will keep them from reaching out to a friend if they think the person might be upset with them or not enjoy being with them.

How is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Different from Other Forms of Therapy?

What makes CBT unique in the world of talk therapy is that it focuses on a particular problem or goal the client has and targets that goal directly with practical solutions. As such, CBT is relatively short-term – a few weeks to a few months – and emphasizes skill development to help clients manage their mental health issues and improve their overall functioning. 

Generally, CBT does not delve too deeply into why a person has a particular disorder (childhood experiences, past trauma, etc.). Instead, it stays in the present, and the client determines which behaviors they want to work on. 

Because CBT relies heavily on client participation, a therapist will often assign “homework” that asks clients to practice the techniques they learn and keep a record of their progress. 

All of this is not to say that other forms of talk therapy are not valuable. It’s often necessary to look at past experiences and relationships, especially when a client has a trauma disorder. In these cases, CBT is often used in conjunction with other types of therapy to help clients heal on multiple levels. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy at Miramont

Our behavioral health facility in Middleton, WI, provides assessment, diagnosis, and stabilization to adults and adolescents who struggle with mental health disorders. Our robust program includes individual and group therapy, both of which employ CBT methods to help clients gain functionality and connect with others for support and guidance. We would love to talk with you about your concerns for yourself or a loved one. Our admissions counselors are available 24/7; reach out today.

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