The medical field of psychiatry has several methods of treating difficult and debilitating disorders in people. One is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which encompasses many treatment activities and procedures – cognitive reappraisal behavioral and motivation strategies, emotional regulation, and psychoeducation. CBT has been proven effective when treating mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression and certain disorders such as schizophrenia. This essay aims to explain how CBT works in theory and practice and why it shows great results for the patient in the long term.
In therapy, people with mental disorders, low self-esteem, and symptoms of being in a toxic relationship or household often confess to having negative cognitive thoughts. For example, they may think they are bad at everything they do, they will be alone for the rest of their lives, and nobody will love them. These thoughts stem from a deep sense of shame and cognitive distortions of reality (Psych Hub, 2019). Distorted thoughts influence people by making them develop a poor sense of self, self-loathing, and isolation tendencies. CBT can be delivered individually and in groups with parent or family involvement to combat these beliefs. One variant of CBT, called Coping Cat, consists of ‘psychoeducation, modification of negative cognitions, exposure, social competence training, coping behavior, and self-reinforcement sessions’ (James et al., 2021, p. 12). The idea behind CBT is to strategically intervene by examining their cognition, explaining the irrationality of such thoughts, and providing the patient with positive affirmations and methods of changing their behavior.
CBT must be done with care and consideration for the patient, who must actively participate throughout the session. In theory, the client receiving CBT begins to recognize their anxious, depressing, and disordered thoughts after the therapist fully explains the negative ways their way of thinking impacts their life. For example, if the client is struggling with anxiety, they “recognize anxious feelings and bodily or somatic reactions to anxiety, identify thoughts or cognitions in anxiety-provoking situations, and modify these anxiety-provoking cognitions” (James et al., 2021, p. 12). The client starts changing their inner monologue from self-critical and mean-spirited to coping and affirming. After receiving care, the client can stop their escalation of negative thoughts and improve their mental state through positive self-talk, halting their effect on their life.
In practice, CBT is incredibly effective for the treatment of mental disorders. In comparison to waitlist/no treatment, this type of therapy leads to the remission of generalized anxiety, social anxiety, separation anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, and selective mutism (James et al., 2020). Post-treatment patients and their families report reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms to a variable degree. However, due to limited research, there is no proven advantage that CBT is a more effective treatment method than treatment as usual, alternative treatment, or medication on most post-session outcomes. The client is much less likely to find CBT helpful if they do not actively welcome the change in their mindset.
In conclusion, CBT is a type of therapy used to treat mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. It operates on the participation of the therapist, client, and sometimes any associated groups, such as family. The therapy process includes assessing the client’s damaging thought processes and educating them on their effect. If the person receiving CBT learns to combat these thoughts, the long-term effects show reduced symptoms of mental illness.
James, A. C., Reardon, T., Soler, A., James, G., & Creswell, C. (2020). Cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11.
Psych Hub. (2019). What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [Video]? YouTube.