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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Addressing fear, worry, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions, CBT Baltimore offers outpatient Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is tailored to the patient’s needs. Most commonly, patients engage in a weekly 45- or 50-minute session.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the psychological construct that our interpretations of life experiences and situations influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors more than the situation itself. At CBT Baltimore, cognitive behavioral therapy is not the only type of theory we use when working with our clients, but it is the foundation of our therapy practice.

CBT enables our clients to identify and analyze thought patterns that no longer serve them. Focusing on changing the thought patterns will lead to different, more positive emotions and behaviors. This therapy is an intentional and structured treatment that helps with various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

CBT graphic

These are just three of the aspects that we explore through CBT:

  1. Automatic negative thoughts – These are the involuntary negative thoughts and perceptions one has of their reality which may be influenced by their upbringing and life experiences. Sometimes automatic negative thoughts are also called cognitive distortions (e.g., all-or-nothing thinking, “should” statements, overgeneralizing).
  2. Core beliefs – Our core beliefs are formed through childhood experiences and deeply rooted in our sense of self and environment (e.g., I am not enough, life is good, etc.).
  3. Dysfunctional assumptions – Seeing the negative things in life is far easier than the positive, and as humans, we tend to lean into the negative far more. However, our dysfunctional assumptions–we like to refer to them as unhelpful rules–are usually unhelpful in the long term and distort our perception of reality.

The History of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Aaron Beck was a young psychiatrist in the 1950s who founded the CBT therapy technique. His practice primarily consisted of psychoanalysis, the dominant therapy modality at the time. Through his research on people with anxiety and depression, he found that his results were constantly refuting the theories of psychoanalytic therapy.

Through his research, Beck found that his patients with depression all had similar negative underlying beliefs and automatic thoughts that fed into these beliefs. With this insight, Beck worked with his patients to examine their automatic thoughts and identify cognitive distortions. Beck helped his patients identify new thought patterns, which enabled them to engage in more adaptive and positive behaviors. 

Using CBT methods, Beck went on to help patients with anxiety, depression, personality disorders, anger problems, PTSD, OCD, relationships, psychosis, and more. CBT has globally become the most widely practiced and heavily researched psychotherapy modality.

How Does CBT Treatment Work?

CBT is a short-term technique used to help deconstruct our overwhelming problems into five smaller pieces (situations, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and actions) that are all interconnected and affect one another. This type of therapy is for people who want to take a very active role in their healing process.

When working with a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral techniques, you will identify your personal feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that negatively affect your life. A therapist will be able to help you:

  • Recognize your cognitive distortions
  • Roleplay new behaviors
  • Gain better insight into your behavior and motivations
  • Employ problem-solving skills
  • Develop confidence in your abilities and coping skills

You and your therapist will collaborate in your CBT sessions to set achievable goals, practice cognitive restructuring, break down core beliefs and dysfunctional thoughts, journal, and different role-playing scenarios.

What Makes CBT Techniques Different?

Cognitive behavioral therapy shares many similarities with other therapeutic modalities, but there are some key differences:

  • CBT is brief compared to other forms of talk therapy, consisting of 10 to 20 sessions.
  • CBT is highly structured and outcome-focused.
  • CBT is practice and action-oriented with an emphasis on behavior change.
  • Homework is given at the end of the session to practice implementing new thought patterns and behaviors.
  • CBT emphasizes education via handouts in the name of clients gaining independence. 

Here is a list of the five most common strategies used during CBT:

  1. Activity scheduling – Have you ever put off a task for days or weeks out of fear or anxiety? This strategy can help enforce good habits and provide an opportunity to practice your new CBT skills.
  2. Journaling – Journaling is a great way to see your thoughts on paper, whether negative or positive. It can also provide a way to keep track of new behaviors and thoughts.
  3. Cognitive restructuring – This is where you take a good, long look at your negative thought patterns. A therapist will ask about your thought process in certain situations and help you identify the negative patterns. Once you are aware of them, you will learn how to reframe them productively.
  4. Exposure therapy – Exposure therapy is a great way to face your fears. You and your therapist will work on slowly exposing yourself to the situation or object you fear and together learn how strong you are what you can handle
  5. Behavioral experiments – This strategy is employed when you’re about to embark on a task. Your therapist will ask you to predict what might happen during the task, and then together you go over whether that prediction came true.

What’s Next?

CBT is an evidence-based and established short-term therapy. It can help you with the connections between your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and teach you how they all affect one another.

If you think CBT, or any of the therapy options, would work well for whatever you’re currently going through, we’d love to help. 

Contact us to learn more, or feel free to request a session