Psychotherapy is also known as “Talk Therapy” because it involves a patient and a clinical psychologist sitting in a room talking, but it is much more than that. During sessions, patients learn to trust their psychologist and feel comfortable sharing their problems. Psychologists help patients to understand what they are struggling with, express their feelings and work on strategic ways to overcome these problems. Clinical Psychologists are trained in specific clinical techniques that may be employed in order to help patients to cope with emotional distress, recover from mental illness, resolve personal issues, and create positive changes in their lives.
In our previous article, we introduced the basic concepts involved in psychotherapy. Let’s learn more about some of the effective and common techniques used, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (or CBT in short)is a highly evidence-based psychotherapy technique. It tends to be structured, with specific goals to target symptoms that may have been troubling you.
About Thoughts, Emotions & Behavior
CBT is grounded on the premise that our thoughts have a strong influence on our feelings and behavior. Specifically, negative automatic thoughts (‘NATs’) drive negative feelings and establish negative patterns of behavior. In turn, this creates a vicious cycle.
For example, if we go into a work presentation thinking “I am going to mess it up”, this naturally results in us feeling very anxious. This anxiety may cause us to stutter or even forget key points of the presentation.
This is then likely reinforce the thought of “I am going to mess it up”. Often, it even creates new negative automatic thoughts, such as: “They think I am useless”. This vicious negative cycle may make us avoid future presentations and reinforce our anxiety.
Same Experience, Many Outcomes
CBT realises that even in ambiguous and difficult situations, our thoughts have the power to create feelings and resultant behaviors which are out of proportion.This is one of the reasons why each of us can react differently (and experience emotions differently) when put through similar situations.
Imagine the highly unusual scenrio of seeing your home door and gate ajar, with your neat living room all in a mess. If you had immediately jumped to the conclusion that “I have just been robbed”, what feelings and actions would result? Naturally, there would be alarm and even anxiety or panic.
On the other hand, if you thought “My brother’s dog messed up the house again!”, you experience other emotions such as being upset with your brother’s dog, or even relief that you had not been robbed after all.
Notice that despite the similar contexts, the thoughts very quickly changed our emotions and our behaviors. These patterns of thinking happen so quickly in our minds that we often do not realise it.
How CBT works
Through CBT, the psychologist seeks to identify unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts. The psychologist then works with you to replace these negative automatic thoughts with more balanced thoughts. Through practice, these thoughts become less automatic, and they become more readily countered with healthier ones. In turn, this results in reduced negative emotions associated with events and experiences.
The process of therapy does not occur just within the session itself – it continues even between sessions. Often, the psychologist will provide materials to be filled in between sessions, or suggest trying certain tasks. These help to identify certain patterns of thinking, and allow you to practice helpful thinking styles. These records also serve as progress markers to reflect how much your negative thought processes have changed over time. Indirectly, this process of encouragement forms a powerful driving force in making long-term changes to your well-being.
We hope that this short summary has provided you with some knowledge on what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is about. Join us at the next installment of Mind Care News as we take you introduce you to more therapeutic techniques!