Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on correcting underlying distorted beliefs about one’s world, self, and future that are often expressed in maladjusted or dysfunctional automatic thoughts. Therapists using CBT work in a collaborative partnership with patients to help them change the dysfunctional thinking and beliefs that contribute to negative moods. They also help patients learn specific skills they can use on an ongoing basis. Some of the skills deal with learning to self-correct dysfunctional thoughts (cognitions) and replacing faulty beliefs with more realistic ones. Other skills deal with adopting new, better, specific behaviors that will result in better outcomes. Because learning and practicing improved cognitions and behaviors are the key components of the therapy, it is called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Click here to read what Forbes magazine said about CBT in April, 2007.
CBT differs from other therapies in that it focuses much more on specific problems that are occurring right now without spending too much time delving into the early origins of the problems or disturbance. Although information about one’s past can offer some insights into the problems experienced today, CBT shifts quickly back to the present and helps the patient investigate specific situations occurring now that are samples of the problem or disturbance. The therapist works with the patient to dig into specific dysfunctional thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are causing or supporting the problem. Specific methods such as the Dysfunctional Thought Record, are used to examine a situation, rate emotions, examine the evidence (or its lack) for dysfunctional thoughts/beliefs and arrive at a more correct perception of reality without distortion. CBT differs from other therapies in that it uses much more frequent (usually each session) assessments of depression, anxiety, etc. and often this data is plotted so that patients can see their improvement—in real numbers—from session to session (see graph below). This helps people to become more objective about their progress and is a huge encouragement to them to keep working to make improvements. Unlike some other therapies, the course of CBT is time-limited and averages between 5 and 15 sessions. Sessions occur weekly at first and, toward the end, may taper to 1 or 2 per month and then only as needed. CBT seeks to transfer skills and abilities to the patient to enable them to act as their own therapist in the future, making continued visits with the therapist unnecessary. Patients who learn to use CBT skills and tools can then share them with their family and friends to help them understand the importance of managing their own thoughts (a key to good self-leadership) and to take much greater responsibility for the moods, behaviors, and physiological responses to these thoughts.
Click here for a list of specific CBT skills and tools as contained in a CBT Toolbox. (Note: this Toolbox is contained on the website of a colleague who invites you to use and download anything you find here that is helpful to you. The website page will open in another browser window so that you will not be taken away completely from my website).
This is actual data. Each data point is the patient's self-report (using the Beck Depression Inventory, BDI) of his level of depressed symptoms on that date and that session number. You can easily see how the patient, himself, notices and reports marked decreases in his symptoms of depression as he learns and uses CBT skills/tools.