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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

A fundamental principle behind CBT is that you can learn to control painful mood swings and self-defeating behaviors by changing how you view and react to difficult life events and feelings. A large body of research has shown that CBT is efficacious (it works) and effective (it works well) for variety of mental health disorders. It has also been shown to improve quality of life and relationships.

At the heart of CBT is the principle that your feelings are the result of the messages you tell yourself. To put it another way, you are what you think. Shakespeare said, ‘ for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2)

The core principles of CBT: Your problems are based in part on incorrect or counterproductive thoughts that you have learned. In addition, our self-destructive behavior patterns negatively affect our mental well-being. CBT teaches individuals improved ways of coping and helps them to recognize distortions in thinking. The end result is a more effective way of living, and improved quality of life.

Unlike other forms of therapy, CBT focuses on the here and now, and is skills based. It is short term, and goal oriented with a specific aim: to alter maladaptive emotional responses by changing thoughts and behaviors. CBT is founded in the belief that thoughts and behaviors are intertwined, and that by learning to change behavior, we can change our emotions and thoughts; and by changing our thoughts, we can change emotions and behaviors.

Unlike other therapeutic approaches, CBT is not about exploring the roots of your bad moods, rather it assumes you are the victim of your own thoughts and beliefs which you can control.  The aim is to help you change the way you look at the world and challenging innate assumptions that lead to destructive thought patterns. Once you reevaluate your perspective, it becomes easier to use problem solving skills and develop a greater sense of agency and self-sufficiency.

CBT has been demonstrated to be effective for depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, marital problems and even severe mental illness. Studies report that CBT offers significant improvements in function and quality of life. Some studies indicate that it can be as effective as psychiatric medications and other forms of psychotherapy.

What are maladaptive coping behaviors?

Maladaptive coping patterns are rigid behaviors that prevent you from adjusting to a new or troubling situation and increase your stress and anxiety. Maladaptive behaviors are self-destructive and self-defeating. These behaviors are generally learned and become habitual over time. A maladaptive behavior can provide temporary relief but frequently aggravates the problem.

Some examples of maladaptive coping behaviors include:

  • Avoidance
  • Withdrawal
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Self-harm
  • Anger
  • Substance use
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors

Maladaptive coping behaviors are aggravated by stressors. They can lead to difficulty with relationships, poor social skills, difficulty taking responsibility for your behavior, poor emotional regulation

How do you develop a maladaptive coping behavior?

  • You may have learned it in childhood.
  • Perhaps you didn’t have good role models of adaptive behaviors.
  • Childhood as well as adult trauma can generate maladaptive coping behaviors.

The benefits of CBT

Fortunately, since these patterns of behvior are learned, you can be taught more productive, realistic ways of coping.  The aim of CBT is to help you identify these automatic patterns and beliefs, and their negative consequences. It can also help you to:

  • gain a better understanding of other people’s motivations and behaviors
  • learn problem-solving skills for more effective coping to stop self-sabotage
  • develop improved self confidence

Adaptive behaviors involve facing a problem and choosing to solve it to avoid an undesirable outcome. You may not like the choice, but you recognize that it is the best way to manage challenging circumstances. By identifying your own set of maladaptive coping strategies and how to substitute them with helpful behaviors, you can get out of your own way. You can learn to face your fears and how to calm yourself when under stress. In essence, CBT is scientifically proven techniques to quickly improve your life, make you more effective and happier.

If you think you might be helped by CBT or have further questions about the treatment, please contact The Midtown Practice. The quality of your therapist has a great impact on the outcome. Our therapists are skillful, compassionate and dedicated to help you feel better, improve your quality of life, and effectively work through life’s challenges. We can show you a healthier path and teach you how to stay on that path to achieve the life you desire.


Resources

  • https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral#
  • Kaczkurkin AN, Foa EB. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015 Sep;17(3):337-46. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.3/akaczkurkin. PMID: 26487814; PMCID: PMC4610618.

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