COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) is a widely used and highly effective form of talk therapy with a very simple design; revealing how behaviors, thoughts, and feelings get in a never-ending cycle that feeds off one another.
Stressors and negative life events can color this cycle with unhelpful thoughts, leading to bad feelings, leading to poor behaviors, and back to more unhelpful thoughts. These thoughts feelings and behaviors are guided by our underlying core beliefs about ourselves, others and the future. Insecurities about yourself, distrust of others, hopelessness for the future etc., can create and reinforce a vicious cycle of self-destruction. So, for example, “I feel disappointed and frustrated about my bad grade in math, so I think I’m stupid. Therefore, I don’t do my homework or pay attention in class. I don’t get good grades, and I’m reinforcing that I’m stupid.”
Because of CBT’s focus on “what can I do now to help move forward quickly and effectively?” CBT is commonly used in the treatment of:
oppositional defiant disorder
How does CBT work?
CBT is an action-oriented therapy model and looks for strategies to solve problems and decrease symptoms immediately. The goal of CBT is to plant a more positive and productive thought, feeling or behavior in the cycle. This disrupts the destructive cycle and allows us to start a new pattern of positive motivation, with a significant reduction in symptoms. A CBT therapist’s main goal is to help guide you through the cycle to break the negative pattern of thought, feelings, and behaviors while replacing them with positive and motivational thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The simplicity of the model is a key reason CBT is so effective with a large range of mental health concerns. It addresses the underlying insecurities and stressors we all face, helps us gain insight, and leads us to learn coping skills fast.
What to expect in a therapy session using CBT:
There is no rush, but CBT does tend to work quickly. A therapist utilizing CBT would immediately address the symptoms. Sadness, anxiety, fear, stress, insecurities etc. and attempt to uncover where they are stemming from. “What beliefs, thoughts, feelings or behaviors have lead to these symptoms? Is there anything in the cycle that isn’t working? If so, how can it be challenged and changed?” Any change that can be made to the cycle to help promote growth and a reduction in the symptoms will be explored. Now our earlier example becomes “I feel disappointed and frustrated about my bad grade in math, so I think I need to get some afterschool tutoring. I can do my homework with my tutor and pay attention in class. I’ll feel good about myself when I get a better grade on the test and want to continue getting good grades in math.” Breaking the negative cycle will help you acknowledge those core beliefs that may be holding you in the destructive cycle and find ways to improve their impact on your life. The therapist acts as a guide and a motivator to help you face these challenging thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with support.
DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT), is a type of therapy most commonly used to treat personality disorders, substance abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Although originally designed to treat borderline personality disorder, the therapy style has been seen successful in the treatment of a wide variety of mental health concerns. The basis of DBT is to accept life’s stressors as they come and learn coping skills to combat them. It very much focuses on awareness, mindfulness, and acceptance of the here and now. DBT is designed to increase emotional regulation and mindfulness. If you can acknowledge the stressors and distressing emotions coming your way, you can accept them and prepare for them by using the coping skills you have developed with your therapist and supporters. DBT can be done individually and in groups. Individual sessions allow us to gain insight into our individual emotional reactions, triggers, and levels of anxiety, while group sessions offer their members support and a common goal for a more fulfilled life.
INTERPERSONAL THERAPY (IPT) is based on the idea that life events, poor relationships, crisis, or a struggle to adapt to new circumstances, result from poor communication with self and others.
Foundation and Goals:
Interpersonal therapy is one of the few therapeutic techniques that has been empirically proven to show results quickly. Interpersonal therapy was founded in the 1970’s as a branch off from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, to treat major depression. Over the years, interpersonal therapy has been developed to address a variety of mental health concerns regarding relationships. The goal is to develop skills to better acknowledge our emotions and how our emotions affect relationships with others.
Interpersonal therapy greatly relies on increasing relationships with others for support. By addressing the most problematic communication symptoms first, the therapy lends its self to adapt to more symptom management. For example, a child is quiet, reclusive and does not like to interact with peers. Interpersonal therapy would address why the child struggles to want to engage. Focusing on expectations of self and others, or unrealistic expectations may help him gain insight as to why he feels unable to engage. Perhaps he is afraid that people will laugh at him, or he will “mess up.” Teaching the child coping skills for anxieties, communication or stressors and slowly introduce the child into social interactions with peers would be next in assisting him to gain confidence in the interactions between self and others. All while under the guidance and support of a therapist, parent, teacher or peers.
What to expect in Interpersonal Therapy sessions:
Many seek treatment utilizing interpersonal therapy to cope with various life stressors. This model of treatment works well for issues concerning grief or loss, relationship conflict, difficulty adjusting to a new situation or environment, depression, anxiety and social isolation because of its primary interest in acknowledgment of emotions and improving communication with self and others. For example, when a close family member passes away, it is often observed that family members will attempt to grieve separately when perhaps sharing in the grief would allow the family unit to move through the difficult transition together. This technique can also be used to help with substance abuse, and eating disorders because of its belief that support from others is key to a healthy and fulfilled life.
The interpersonal therapist’s job is to help us acknowledge our underlying emotions, observe the impact moods have on our relationships and learn communication skills to better involve others, or set healthy boundaries with our friends and family. A therapist will help us track the use of these interactions with self and others while assisting us to fine-tune those skills to become lifelong and easily accessible coping tools.
CBT, DBT, and IPT are shown to be highly effective in online therapy environments.
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