Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a type of psychotherapy (or talk therapy) focused on how thoughts and feelings influence behaviors. Working with a therapist individually or in a group setting, CBT-based therapy helps you manage your thoughts and actions to improve your quality of life.

CBT can be used alone or in combination with medication or other therapies to treat many mental health conditions.

Who Benefits from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression but it isn’t limited to treating illnesses. It can also help you learn to better manage stressful life situations. Studies show it’s also effective at treating many other mental and physical health problems, including:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Fibromyalgia

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

CBT is goal-oriented and focuses on helping you address a very specific problem. It can be effective in a short timeframe—typically five to 20 sessions. CBT sessions can be one-on-one or in groups consisting of family members or people with similar issues.

During CBT, a therapist helps you identify negative thought patterns and behaviors impacting your life. Addressing these patterns helps you reshape your thinking and actions. For example, you can replace thoughts that lower self-esteem - "I’m always making mistakes" - with more positive beliefs - "I do many things well".

Your therapist may assign homework in between sessions so you can practice new ways of thinking and behaving. Your CBT sessions may include techniques such as relaxation, stress management and assertiveness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

Mercy behavioral health therapists use several CBT exercises and tools to help you develop coping skills and healthier behaviors. CBT techniques may be used during therapy sessions or as homework assignments in between sessions. Examples include:

  • Thought records or journaling – looking at evidence for and against your thoughts side-by-side to learn more balanced ways of thinking
  • Behavioral experiments – gathering information to test the accuracy of your current thoughts or new beliefs
  • Imagery-based exposure – envisioning a recent memory that produced strong emotions to understand your thoughts and feelings about it
  • Pleasant activity scheduling – participating in activities you find enjoyable to boost your mood
  • Guided discovery – answering a series of questions to understand how you process information
  • Mindfulness – using practices like meditation and breathing exercises to break negative thought patterns

Mercy offers CBT and other mental health treatments for adults, seniors, adolescents and children. We provide care with compassion and dignity to help you restore a healthy emotional balance.

How is CBT Different from Other Psychotherapies?

CBT is a short-term therapy that helps you learn more effective ways of coping with a problem. But depending on your needs, Mercy behavioral health professionals may consider other types of psychotherapy. Examples include:

Learning to accept uncomfortable thoughts and feelings instead of struggling with them

Performing a series of repetitive eye movements to change negative emotional reactions to difficult memories

Being exposed to anxiety triggers in a controlled environment to learn how to cope with them

 Identifying and changing behaviors like isolation and aggression to improve relationships with others

Learning to differentiate your own thoughts and feelings from those of others around you

Recognizing and resolving negative behaviors and feelings that are rooted in past experiences

Interacting with trained therapy animals to help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue or pain

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