Becoming your Best Self with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you have ever attended a therapy session or know someone who has, you’ve likely heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A popular form of psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses a wide range of mental health challenges and behavioral problems – depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and relationship problems, to name a few. The foundation of CBT is learning to recognize negative thoughts and change thought patterns into positive, healthy ones.

As the holiday season approaches, there are a plethora of emotions that can arise. The professional therapists and counselors at Mindful Living Group understand that stress can sometimes sneak up and escalate in a matter of moments. Not only is stress problematic to your immune system, but prolonged or acute stress can have detrimental effects on mental health, too. Extended, building stress can trigger relapse in mental illnesses or wear you down to the point of feeling defeated and/or depleted.

The good news: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is helpful in stress reduction, a broad spectrum of mental illnesses and behavior disorders, and effective in reducing symptoms of a number of physical health issues. CBT has shown to be effective in as little as five to twenty sessions. If scheduling to be somewhere else only adds to your stress or if you have difficulty accessing a therapist’s office, CBT is proven effective when done through telehealth as well.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is considered a newer form of psychotherapy developed during the 1960s. Since its development, there have been significant advances in research and use. Despite being “young” the evidence shows CBT to potentially be more effective than other common therapies or psychiatric medications. The American Psychological Association gives three core principles that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy builds from:

  1. “Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking”;
  2. “Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior”; and
  3. People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.”

At the crux of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the main goal: help the individual recognize their misrepresented thoughts, challenge them with positive analysis of reality, comprehend the connections between actions and emotions in themselves and others, and develop a healthy level of self-confidence.

It is crucial to understand beforehand that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not a cure to mental illnesses or physical discomforts. Do not let this dissuade you, as the benefits of CBT are significant in reducing symptoms and maintaining a state of remission from mental illness, amongst a wealth of other upsides.

The degree of influence in which Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has on you and your health relies on yourself. CBT is most effective if a patient is all in, ready, and willing to grow past their core symptoms and underlying belief systems. On the contrary, if a patient is not entirely on board with the process, the efficacy declines.

To “feel the full effect” takes effort and dedication to yourself. While that may sound simple, when was the last time you broke a promise to yourself to stop eating junk food or that you would do the laundry after work? Evolving into our next best self can be uncomfortable, challenging, and easy to quit – but if you don’t. It’s worth the new you that emerges through.

A common misunderstanding around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the idea “it’s just positive thinking.” Despite being one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy, CBT is much more complex than assumed. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is essentially two different therapies combined. The cognitive half focuses on thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and perception. On the other end, behavioral therapy confronts an individual’s actions and conduct including coping skills to navigate problematic cognitions and behaviors.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps

Concerning emotional disorders (“any psychological disorder characterized primarily by maladjustive emotional reactions that are inappropriate or disproportionate to their cause”), a cognitive-behavioral therapist helps the patient uncover healthy coping mechanisms that can be used in various taxing situations. Improved communication skills are gained as the patient will likely come upon uncomfortable emotions or issues during therapy sessions. A therapist role is to apply clinical skills to help a patient in learning how to express what they feel and know what thoughts and beliefs surround those feelings. Addressing trauma, distortions, or maladaptive beliefs and working through them in therapy is critical to healing and learning how to better self regulate and adapt to life’s demands, circumstances, and decisions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy empowers you with skills that are applicable in everyday life and personal struggles. There is a collaborative group of skills that are taught or polished through CBT:

Goal Setting

No matter the type of therapy you participate in, setting goals and intentions are a core part of the treatment plan. It is important to set realistic short – and long-term goals. Most treatment plans follow the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based). Setting goals can feel overwhelming, which is why your therapist works with you to set goals that are reasonable, achievable, and will encourage you along the way and also remind you to be kinder to yourself when it is difficult to reach them.

Identifying Negative Thoughts

As you work with your therapist, you will begin to recognize patterns of your thoughts and actions. In doing this, you will start to understand the connection between your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Identifying negative thoughts will lead you on a, at times uncomfortable, but a powerful journey of self-discovery.

Problem-Solving

A part of being human means problem-solving. For some, it comes with ease, and for others, it’s a skill that takes practice and polishing. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy elicits the prime opportunity for developing or bettering problem-solving skills and insights.

Self-Monitoring

Often done through journaling – diary, bullet, habit tracker – or a method that you and your therapist decide on that is best for you. While at first, documenting your behaviors, symptoms, emotions, triggers, and sometimes eating habits. Gathering this data, allows both you and your therapist to locate and find patterns. Journaling is a quality tool that provides valuable insight into daily routines or habits that you may not have ever thought important.

Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindful Living Group

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) is a primary model of practice at Mindful Living Group. MCBT incorporates mindful practices and meditation techniques with cognitive-behavioral therapy methods. MCBT teaches compassion and neutral acceptance of thoughts and feelings rather than relying so heavily on self-discipline and will power towards change. The simple act of shifting the perceptual relationship to symptoms and behaviors in a compassionate and accepting way has a powerful effect in naturally eliciting change. This model has become highly researched and found to be very valuable for those who suffer from chronic depression and addiction. MCBT has been shown to effectively reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, relapse prevention, and treating resistant depression.

Getting Started

Before beginning any therapeutic methods, it is important to ensure you are working with a licensed psychotherapist or pre-licensed therapist under the supervision of a licensed provider. This is for your safety. Psychotherapists undergo several years of supervision as well as in-depth personal work and training in their graduate school programs to navigate transference, countertransference, ignorance and bias’ that can be harmful to the therapeutic process. It’s important to remember that healing and growth take time, practice, and commitment that can only come from deep within you. The path is not linear, but what is gained along the way is irreplaceable and invaluable to the development of lifelong skills and coping mechanisms that will offer the opportunity for a better quality of life.

If you are interested in learning more about if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) is the right option for you, contact us today. We are ready to help and support you in becoming the healthiest version of yourself. To Live Well. To Live Aloha.