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What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy and How Can It Help?

Learn how this counseling approach works by looking at how our thoughts and behaviors are related and what tactical strategies can alleviate symptoms
What is cognitive behavior therapy

“Cognitive therapy seeks to alleviate psychological tensions by correcting misconceptions. By correcting erroneous beliefs, we can end the overreactions.” ?Aaron Beck

What is cognitive-behavioral therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT) is a counseling approach that focuses on how our thoughts and behaviors are related, and how they can negatively impact our lives. CBT is focused on understanding our thoughts and feelings around a problem we are facing and learning how the problem works, such as what triggers anxiety. While it is important to know how a problem works, CBT goes further in helping overcome that problem by using various therapeutic strategies.

CBT was developed over the course of many years to be an effective and easy-to-use treatment program to help people who struggle with a wide variety of mental health conditions. It has been shown to have great results for people who struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, perfectionism, and more.

How can cognitive behavior therapy help me?

  • A key aspect of this therapy approach is learning about the problem you are facing, called “psycho-education.” With your therapist you will learn how anxiety works, common triggers, and how to manage anxiety throughout the day. As therapy progresses your therapist will tailor the approach to your specific situation to help you reach your goals and overcome the problem.

  • CBT has numerous strategies and techniques to help you with the problem you are facing. Strategies such as progressive muscle relaxation, calm breathing, exposure therapy, and realistic thinking are simple to learn and with practice, they are easy to use throughout the day to help manage your symptoms.

  • CBT helps you focus on the present moment and how you can manage the symptoms you experience, not the reasons you have the symptoms. It can be interesting to learn when anxiety developed, but simply knowing where it comes from is not enough. CBT can help change your thoughts and actions to make them more bearable.

  • CBT is a structured therapy, which means you will follow a specific set of steps organized by your therapist that will help you understand your symptoms and how they affect you, and to think in new ways. A key component of CBT is homework which involves learning new coping strategies and practicing them in between sessions.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a team effort between you and your therapist, you are not alone. You and your therapist will work together on helping you understand your symptoms, how to manage them in a way that works best for you and learn new therapeutic strategies to use on your own.

  • Lastly, CBT can help prevent relapse in the future. Whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or another problem, your therapist can help you develop coping strategies to prevent your symptoms from returning in the future.

Considering therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a well-established therapy approach that can help you overcome a wide variety of mental health challenges. But cognitive-behavioral therapy is not a good fit for everyone. While it has been shown to have great benefits, some people may have greater results with another therapy approach such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Talk to your therapist about the therapy approach they use, what they think would help you the most, and what you can expect from therapy. Some people notice changes in as few as 2 weeks (varies from individual to individual).

Are you interested in learning a cognitive behavioral therapy strategy?

A thought record can help track your thoughts throughout the day and explore your responses to various situations. A basic thought tracker is provided below (adapted from Positive Psychology). Try the thought tracker for a week and at the end of the week read over your responses to see what you could do differently next time to have a more desirable outcome.

For more support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free, trained listener, or start affordable online therapy today.


Posted: 12 September 2019
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Rory Boutilier, RPC

Rory is a Registered Professional Counsellor and registered with the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association.

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