Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Learning to Control our Thoughts and Actions
You have an important examine scheduled for the following day. You have read the material and studied hard. Though you are prepared, as you lay in bed you can’t stop thinking about the test. The more you think about it the more anxious you get. You realize you are losing sleep which only makes you more nervous because you know that without an adequate amount of sleep your performance on the test will suffer. You wish you had a way to control your thoughts, so you wouldn’t continue to worry yourself into such a state.
On another occasion, you are looking forward to seeing a certain friend whom you haven’t seen for a long time. The day before your scheduled get together, your friend calls to say that an emergency has come up and she can’t make the date. At first you feel badly for your friend. But then you wonder if your friend ever had any intention of meeting with you at all. You continue to wonder if it was something you said. You can’t stop feeling guilty that maybe you have contributed to the very reason she is canceling these appointments. Eventually though, guilt turns into resentment.
These harmful thought patterns or cognitive distortions, can have serious consequences that affect many areas of our lives.
Cognitive Distortions and Dissonance?
Cognitive distortions are thoughts or beliefs that are not based on credible evidence but can negatively affect a person’s emotions and/or behaviors. Further, a person may have two conflicting opinions or a belief that conflicts with their behavior. This condition is called cognitive dissonance. Though the person may not be aware of these contradictions, cognitive dissonance, if left unresolved, will create disturbing emotions with persistent anxiety. Examples of cognitive distortions include:
- Blame Shifting: Having a need to assign blame in every situation, usually deflecting the blame from one’s self;
- Catastrophizing: A tendency to see situations from a worse-case scenario with a sense of eminent doom;
- Control fallacy: Responding to one’s own insecurities regarding a situation by attempting to micro-manage;
- Emotional reasoning: Creating a sense of reality based on one’s personal feelings, usually from a negative perspective;
- Fallacy of fairness: Frequently comparing and/or contrasting one’s self or one’s current situation to those of other individual, usually in an arbitrary manner.
- Filtering: Only attending to the negative aspects of a situation and disregarding the positive aspects.
- Overgeneralization: Developing a universal principle from one’s own personal experiences;
- Polarized thinking: Seeing the world in the terms of strict dichotomies, e.g. either yes or no, black or white;
Effects of Negative Thought Patterns
We often find ourselves in situations where we develop conclusions with little or no information. These conclusions may be influenced more by past experiences rather than the present situation. The problem is that these conclusions can trigger emotional responses that effect our well-being, both mental and physical. Faulty thought patterns can lead to a host of aberrant conditions and behaviors such as:
- Generalized Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Explosive Verbal Outbursts
- Obsessive-Compulsive Tendencies
- Mood Swings
- Sense of Helplessness
- Poor Self-Worth
- Decreased Motivation
- Disruptions in Personal Relationships
- Self-Medication with Alcohol or Illicit Drugs
- Over Eating or Under Eating
- Other General Health Issues
When we experience this distortion in our thoughts we can experience a sense of disconnect, loneliness and hopelessness. However, there is hope. There are a range of exercises and techniques that, when trained by an experienced professional, can help us manage our thoughts and behaviors. This type of training is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a widely used evidence-based approach to psychotherapy that focuses on identifying environmental triggers to certain thought patterns and developing healthier, more productive responses called coping skills.
The CBT Process
The trained counselor or therapist at Thriveworks-Franklin, utilizing CBT, will help the client identify unhelpful cognitions (i.e. thoughts, beliefs and/or attitudes) that may lead to emotions and/or behaviors that may lead to maladaptive, often serious, negative consequences. After developing a relationship with the client based on mutual trust and acceptance, the therapist will help teach the client to:
- Identify these harmful cognitions
- Identify environmental triggers to these patterns
- Teach methods of using an evidenced based approach to assess the merit of these cognitions
- Train alternative ways of addressing these thoughts and feelings
- Recognize the more positive consequences for these alternate responses.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy generally has six phases:
- Assessment or Evaluation
- Skills acquisition;
- Skills consolidation and application training;
- Generalization and maintenance;
- Post-treatment assessment follow-up.
There are clinicians at Thriveworks-Franklin with many years of training and experience helping others using Cognitive behavioral therapy. The are various forms of CBT techniques that include:
- Relaxation Training
- Cognitive Restructuring
- Exposure Therapy
- Cognitive Processing Therapy
- Stress Inoculation
- Guided Imagery
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
The therapist at Thriveworks-Franklin will work with the client to select a method or combination of methods that will be right for that individual. Thriveworks-Franklin therapist use CBT to treat a variety of conditions and challenges including:
- Mood swings
- Relationship issues
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anger management
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Conduct Disorder
Get Help Today
If you are ready to try cognitive behavioral therapy, Thriveworks-Franklin has counselors who are ready to help. When you contact us at (617) 360-7210. You may have your first appointment within 24 hours. We do not maintain a waitlist, but we do offer weekend and evening sessions. We also accept most insurance plans. So, call Thriveworks-Franklin today.