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Dr. Julia Becker


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Coping with Change Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Posted by Dr. Becker Monday, June 27, 2011

 

Life-Under-ConstructionWhen changes and challenges arise, people react in different ways.  Some people react with a sense of calm and acceptance, others react with excitement while focusing on the opportunities the change will bring, and others may react with worry, sadness, anger, or fear.

 

For a person who is already slightly depressed or anxious, a major life change may intensify anxiety and depression.  When these emotions become overwhelming, anxious and depressed people often seek help, such as counseling.

 

After they begin counseling, people often report that the change they experienced caused their anxiety or depression.  However, it is not the change itself that caused the emotional state; it is the individual’s reaction to the change.  Furthermore, the person’s mental state before the change occurred also contributed to their reaction.  The psychologist’s next task is to help the patient understand their reaction and begin to make positive changes to reduce depression and anxiety.

 

How do psychologists help patients? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used psychological treatment that has been proven effective in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.  CBT therapists focus on understanding the role of thoughts (cognitions) and behavior on emotions.  A major task in CBT is to develop awareness of the thoughts that lead to emotions.  For example, imagine that you are criticized by your boss at work.  You may immediately feel sad, anxious, or angry.  How you feel depends on your thoughts about what happened.  If you feel angry, you may be thinking “This guy is a jerk!”  If you feel anxious, you may be thinking, “I hope I don’t lose my job!”  Often these thoughts occur so quickly that they are almost unrecognizable.  Your CBT psychologist will help you slow down this process and become more aware of the thoughts behind the emotions.  The next step in this process is beginning to challenge thoughts and working toward more balanced thinking.

 

CBT therapists also work with patients to help them change their schemas.  A schema is a pattern of thinking centered on a particular theme, and it influences the way people view the world.  Schemas may develop in childhood and persist into adulthood. For example, a person may have a schema that they are a bad and unworthy person.  This schema is strengthened as the person looks for evidence that seems to confirm those views.  The CBT therapist will work with the patient to change this schema, and develop a more realistic and healthy self-image.

 

Another important part of CBT therapy is to work on changing behavior.  A CBT psychologist will help patients understand how certain behaviors maintain their anxiety and depression.  For example, people with low self-esteem may avoid others because they believe others will not like them.  By doing this, they strengthen their schema that they are bad or unworthy.  The CBT psychologist will work with these patients to help them try out new social behaviors and develop positive relationships.  The CBT psychologist may also recommend other behavioral changes, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and activity scheduling.

 

CBT is an effective treatment for people with a variety of concerns, including relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, procrastination, and stress.  To determine if CBT is the appropriate treatment for you, consult with a psychologist in your area.

 

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

7 comments

  1. Hi Dr Becker,

    This is a really good explanation of CBT. I have placed this site on my Blog list so that my readers can benefit from your work. At some point, can you consider writing something on ACT?

    Regards
    Dr Vin
    Family Doctor from Australia
    MBBS FRACGP
    www.doyouhavedepression.blogspot.com

     
  2. Ann Says:
  3. nice blog..
    cbt depression treatment

     
  4. Dr. Becker Says:
  5. Thanks for stopping by! Dr Vin, look for an ACT post coming in the near future.

     
  6. wow, this is great information!!! Thank you for writing this :)

     
  7. Dr. Becker Says:
  8. I'm glad you found it helpful, and thanks for visiting!

     
  9. Ann Says:
  10. Nice article..this is very helpful

     
  11. Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about cognitive behavioral therapy. You have such a very interesting and informative page. I am looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. I am so glad to drop by and to have an additional knowledge about this topic through your blog. Keep it up!
    In addition to that, based on what I have read online, there are different protocols for delivering cognitive behavioral therapy, with important similarities among them. Use of the term CBT may refer to different interventions, including "self-instructions (e.g. distraction, imagery, motivational self-talk), relaxation and/or biofeedback, development of adaptive coping strategies (e.g. minimizing negative or self-defeating thoughts), changing maladaptive beliefs about pain, and goal setting". Treatment is sometimes manualized, with brief, direct, and time-limited treatments for individual psychological disorders that are specific technique-driven. CBT is used in both individual and group settings, and the techniques are often adapted for self-help applications. Some clinicians and researchers are cognitively oriented (e.g. cognitive restructuring), while others are more behaviorally oriented (e.g. in vivo exposure therapy). Interventions such as imaginal exposure therapy combine both approaches.

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