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At One-Eighty Counseling
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
What is CBT and How Does it Work?
CBT stands for cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is based on the premise that thoughts, feelings
I find it helpful to picture paths in a forest to represent neuropathways in the brain. When you’re in the forest, you’re likely to go down the path you’ve gone down the most. It’s wide and clear and you know what to expect. One day you might realize that this well-worn path brings you to a place you don’t like to be. So, you decide to go down a new path. The only problem is there are trees and roots, rocks, bushes and weeds in your way. You’ll have to machete your way through to create a new path. It’s the same with creating a new path in the brain. This is a lot of work, but it’s worth it!
CBT is beneficial for persons with mood disorders, like depression or anxiety, and for anyone who wants to improve their general mood and attitude. Everyone has experienced a cognitive distortion at one time or another; a cognitive distortion is an unhelpful way of thinking that negatively impacts your mood. You can find a list of common cognitive distortions here: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/cognitive-distortions/.
One type of distorted thinking is labeling: an example of this is when you label yourself “stupid” because you failed a test. When you apply cognitive challenging (a CBT skill), you might realize you failed the test because you missed a lot of classes or you didn’t study. When you place overly negative labels on yourself, you will tend to choose behaviors that live up to the expectation of that label: “I’m stupid, so why bother trying? I’m not going to waste my time studying.” Your behavior (choosing not to study) will then reinforce your negative belief (“I’m stupid”). The more you label yourself, the stronger that belief becomes and the more you will choose behaviors that reinforce it, thus feeding into a vicious cycle. The good news is you can create positive cycles with cognitive challenging and other CBT skills that your therapist can teach you and help you apply.
Developed by Julie DeFalco, MSW, LCSW