Cognitive Therapy, often called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, works by helping people become more aware of how their relationships with other people and reactions to stressful situations are connected to unquestioned assumptions they hold about themselves, others, and the world. It provides a process for helping you reexamine, better understand, and better manage your complex emotional life and relationships. In part, the work of therapy involves broadening one’s awareness and building cognitive flexibility. Through talking about and reexamining situations and your interpretations and responses, you can:
reduce feelings of depression and anxiety
reduce or eliminate problematic substance abuse
build on your own strengths to improve perspective taking
improve understanding of the unconscious beliefs driving your interpretations of events
build a set of new thinking patterns and coping responses to stressful situations
increase self-mastery and self-compassion
Dr. Carnazzo discusses how CBT works
It is a basic assumption of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that humans are prone to some form or another of irrational or distorted thinking. People coming to therapy report a common pattern of distorted information processing referred to in CBT as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions contribute to feelings of sadness and isolation, worries and avoidance behavior, and misunderstanding and conflicts with other people.
We all have these biases and they are hard to detect in oneself, but easier for others to identify in us. This is part of the reason why an objective third party can often help us build a better understand ourselves.
Thus, therapy is a collaborative process where you and your therapist examine the source and substance of your thought patterns and related feelings and reactions. The process is deliberate and seeks to provide you with greater clarity about yourself and greater clarity about ways to improve the way you handle the challenges in your life. Additionally, understanding how you think about things in the present gives you and your therapist a window into more deeply held beliefs. Understanding these deep or core beliefs can also provide you a guide to opportunities for personal growth.
Insight in Therapy
There are at least two different levels of insight to be gained from participating in CBT. You can gain greater insight into the relationships between your feelings, behavior and thinking about current life events. The second level of insight is increased awareness of how your early learning history affects how you understand and respond or cope with present events.
By simply taking an hour out of your busy week to reflect on recent events you can gain better insights into how to understand your emotional and behavioral reactions to stressors in your life. CBT also helps people by providing ideas for improved coping strategies.