Even if you’ve never heard of other types of therapeutic approaches, chances are you’ve heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Therapists and psychologists are typically trained in many different types of approaches to therapy, but most commonly, they are trained in CBT. This is because CBT is one of the most widespread and well-studied approaches in psychology. You may be asking yourself, if there are other approaches, why is CBT so common and well-known?
First off, CBT researchers have determine CBT is an effective approach for a variety of presenting issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), addiction, and eating disorders. This is because the general idea behind CBT is that we engage in unhelpful thinking patters that fuel our negative thoughts. Practitioners call these unhelpful thinking patterns cognitive distortions. These distortions fuel thoughts such as, "I'm not good enough," "my coworkers don't like me", or "Everyone knows I'm a failure." The work with a CBT therapist includes the process of addressing these cognitive distortions.
During a typical session with a CBT therapists, you may engage in a number of activities and discussions. CBT often includes homework, or work on an action plan. Activities may include creating a thought journal, behavioral activation, or practicing new skills. As such, your therapist may want to discuss how your homework went for the week. They also may do a general check in to see how your week went. Next, you will likely talk about your current mood, and what came up for you during the week. Throughout the session, you and your therapist will work together to discuss current thoughts, feeling, and challenges. Generally, your therapist will act as a sounding board, and may help you to think about your own thoughts differently through challenging your cognitive distortions.
In general, your session with your therapist will be active and collaborative. It should gently challenge you, make you feel understood, and affirm your worth and value in this world. Through CBT, you will learn you are often your harshest critic. Eventually, you will learn strategies to help you challenge your own thoughts, helping you with current and future issues that may arise. Success with CBT means you will gain the tools to see things differently and feel empowered to use these tools in the future.