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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Common questions about what cognitive behavioral therapy is, how it’s used and what to expect.

General Questions

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common mental health technique that involves recognizing difficult thinking or behavioral patterns and developing more healthy strategies to address or reframe difficult situations.

The primary goal of CBT is to improve your quality of life. By learning to recognize, address, and alter negative patterns, a person’s psychological symptoms can be reduced or better controlled.

How Does CBT Work?

CBT focuses on changing patterns of cognition and behavior to ease psychological symptoms and improve quality of life. Your therapist will likely start by asking you to identify the areas in your life that are causing trouble or distress, then work with you to create goals.

While each person’s experience with CBT will be based on their unique needs, there are a few standard strategies:

  • Recognizing distortions in one’s thinking and working to square them with reality
  • Identifying sustainable replacements for unhealthy or unhelpful thoughts and behaviors
  • Using problem solving and critical thinking to work through challenges
  • Trying to gain a better understanding of others’ actions and motivations
  • Learning strategies to calm the body and mind, such as breathing or grounding
  • Developing confidence in one’s own abilities

Your therapist may also suggest journaling, role playing and/or exposure therapy.

Is CBT the Same as Counseling?

CBT is a type of talk therapy and a part of many counseling sessions. CBT practitioners emphasize listening to their patients’ concerns and difficulties while directing the conversation to focus on practical solutions and healthy coping strategies.

Is CBT the Same as Mindfulness or Meditation?

While CBT may incorporate some of the principles of mindfulness and meditation, they are not the same. Think of mindfulness and meditation as tools in the CBT toolbox. They may or may not be used, but either way, they will not be the only strategy.

What to Expect

What Can I Expect in a CBT Session?

On your first visit, your therapist will take some time to get to know you and understand what challenges have led you to seek out therapy.

From there, you will likely set a few goals to guide your therapy work. Most sessions will involve talking through the thoughts, feelings, and situations that are causing you problems.

You will work together to identify healthier, more productive ways of coping. Your therapist may also ask you to do “homework,” which may include readings, activities or practices outside of the session.

How Long Will It Take to See the Effects of CBT?

The time it takes to see results from CBT will depend on each individual’s unique situation. Generally, you can expect to see noticeable results after five to twenty sessions.

What is CBT Used for?

CBT can be helpful for a variety of emotional challenges, including stress, trauma, loss and illness. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, phobias, PTSD, OCD, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, sexual disorders and substance use disorders.

Those who have not received a particular diagnosis may still benefit from CBT, so if you are interested in this form of therapy, reach out to our office at 847-310-8578.

What are the Benefits of CBT?

CBT has a range of benefits, including:

  • Better understanding of your individual challenges and strengths
  • Better coping methods for stressful or difficult situations
  • More rational, productive thought processes
  • Improved interpersonal relationships
  • Increased self esteem
  • Skills to deal with the physical effects of stress
  • Can be useful when medication is not an option for treating a mental illness
  • Continues to be useful even after therapy sessions have ended
Does CBT Have Any Risks or Disadvantages?

There are very few risks associated with CBT. It is, however, common to experience unpleasant or distressing emotions or memories while engaging in CBT work.

You may at times become anxious or feel frustrated during the process. Communicate these struggles to your therapist. They can help you confront these challenges with positive coping skills.