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Can You Benefit from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

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Maybe your fear of flying is keeping you from a promotion at work. Or perhaps you don’t want to be alone, but you don’t see the point of meeting anyone new since all your relationships leave you heartbroken. If you feel stuck in an area of your life and you don’t know how to get unstuck, a cognitive-behavioral therapist may be able to help you see things differently.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people see how the thoughts they’re having about a certain person, situation, or event are influencing their feelings and behaviors. A lot of emphasis is placed on helping clients realize which viewpoints are irrational, self-limiting, and counterproductive to their goals.

By eliminating these thoughts and entertaining new ways of thinking about particular aspects of their lives, clients become empowered to change their behavior in ways that cause them to feel less stressed and more satisfied.

CBT is used to treat people suffering from a wide range of psychological illness, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and schizophrenia. Even among cases in which medication is the primary therapy, CBT can be useful in helping patients eliminate the unrealistic or irrational views they have of themselves or the world around them.

There are several types of CBT. Most of the differences lie in the specific therapeutic approach the counselor takes with the client. Generally, however, if you’re considering CBT, you can expect the following:

  • Your thoughts will be considered hypotheses that need to be tested. Be prepared for your therapist to ask lots of questions about how you arrive at the assumptions or conclusions that form the basis of your thinking. In addition, you’ll be expected to ask your therapist questions about the validity of your thoughts and how they manifest themselves in your feelings and behavior.

  • You’ll concentrate on learning new skills, not building a deep, therapeutic bond. Of course, it’s important to have a trusting rapport with your CBT therapist, but his role will be tightly focused on teaching you new ways of approaching the world so you can begin getting what you want out of life.

  • Your therapy will focus on the present. While past situations will be examined if they’re found to be at the root of a certain pattern of thinking that you’re holding onto today, you and your counselor will primarily work to change thinking and behavior patterns as they specifically relate to current situations.

  • Your sessions will be structured and educational. CBT sessions characteristically have a set agenda agreed on by you and your therapist. You can expect to talk about your progress since your last session, learn a new skill or discuss a new aspect of your therapy, and decide what you’ll work on before your next session.

    Be prepared to do some homework. In order to prove to yourself that you can change that the change is working, your therapist will give you between-session assignments. You’ll most likely be asked to practice different thinking techniques and ways of responding to your environment.

  • Your therapy will be finite. Once you and your therapist agree that you’re able to recognize, understand, and change self-sabotaging thought patterns, your therapy will be complete. The average number of CBT sessions per client is 16.

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