Feeling overwhelmed by a particular life challenge is a normal, human experience. Have you ever faced a situation and thought, “This is impossible. I have no options.” Most likely you have. At some point, we all tell ourselves things that are negative and not true. These are called cognitive distortions, and they make difficult situations worse. In some cases, cognitive distortions can create problems for people that did not previously exist. While people cannot always control others or the circumstances in their lives, they can change their perspective. Identifying and confronting these negative thinking patterns can bring people significant relief with a wide variety of problems they may face. Many people are working with a counselor to do just that. They are pursuing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” —Carol Burnett
CBT is a model for therapy that can help people who are ready to make a change in their lives but may not know how. It has helped a wide range of people facing a wide range of problems. In clinical trials, patients who participated in cognitive behavioral therapy experienced substantial and long-term change. When people struggled with anxiety and depression, CBT was shown to bring as much relief as medication. Because CBT focuses on empowering and strengthening an individual’s emotional skills, the benefits of CBT can continue long after therapy ends.
Thriveworks Alexandria, VA (Franconia) offers cognitive behavioral therapy, and our therapists, psychologists, and counselors have seen clients change their lives by changing themselves first. Positive change often begins with positive thinking, and our staff is ready to help.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT is a therapeutic method that addresses a particular social, emotional, or relational problem that a client presents. It is a proactive and practical way of addressing life’s difficulties. With a therapist’s help, people seek to change their own perspective upon and thinking about a specific difficulty. Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be used to treat challenges such as…
- Mood swings
- Self-destructive habits
- Anger management
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Drug and/or alcohol addiction
- Child and adolescent issues
- General health issues
- Relationship issues
How does CBT work in these situations? Consider James, who struggles with anxiety. A week ago, James’ friend said he would email him a few dates for a potential weekend to go skiing. Since then, James has not heard from his friend. James is growing angrier with his friend and is telling himself that his friend does not want to go skiing with him. This is an example of negative thinking—a cognitive distortion. James does not know why his friend has not emailed him. Maybe his friend had a busy week at work and simply has not had time to look at his calendar. Instead of indulging negative thoughts, James could be proactive and contact his friend, asking him how his week has been instead of assuming the worst.
CBT is most effective when it focuses upon a client’s response to a specific issue. Because it zeroes in on a particular challenge, CBT is a short-term therapeutic model. A counselor may work with a client for six months to one year, meeting once a week for a 50-minute session. Often, clients will be assigned homework. Homework may include activities like journaling to identify negative thought patterns and potentially different responses.
Cognitive Distortions and the Problem’s Roots
Cognitive distortions occur when people interpret their circumstances inaccurately and negatively. There are specific negative thought patterns that can entrap people. Cognitive behavioral therapy does not try to fix an individual’s circumstances, but it seeks to identify any cognitive distortions the individual may hold. Once these are identified, they can be replaced with more accurate and positive thinking. Possible cognitive distortions may be…
- Polarized or “black and white” thinking means people are see everything as perfect or terrible, good or evil, pure or tainted. It is all-or-nothing thinking.
- Blaming means people are always looking for someone or something to place fault upon.
- Catastrophizing means people expect the worst.
- Control fallacies have two versions. External control places blame upon luck, fate, or a natural power for life’s circumstances. Internal control means people take responsibility for circumstances that are not within their control—such as when a child blames themself a parent’s divorce.
- Filtering means people put a negative spin on every situation and dismiss positive realities.
- Overgeneralization means people take one experience and interpret life through that one event.
- Emotional reasoning means people equate their feelings with reality despite contrary evidence.
- Personalization means people take others’ actions as a direct reflection of themselves.
- Fairness fallacy means people use an irrational standard of fairness to evaluate their life. They may live their lives comparing themselves to others.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with the Counselors at Thriveworks Alexandria, VA (Franconia)
What is happening in your life right now and how you are responding? If you recognized some of the listed cognitive distortions, you may be ready to make a change—within yourself. If you are ready, Thriveworks Alexandria is too.
When you contact our office to schedule an appointment, you may be meeting with your therapist the following day. We do not keep a waitlist, but we do offer evening and weekend appointments. We also accept most insurance plans. Let’s work together to make a positive change. Call Thriveworks Alexandria today.