Introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Written by
Ferdinand Marin

Learn the basics about Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the most effective forms of counselling.

One of the best ways to confront mental or emotional issues is through counseling. Although there are many different types of counseling available, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be one of the most effective. The underlying concept behind this type of therapy is that some people have core negative beliefs that falsely influence the way they see the world and react to situations.

Understanding CBT starts by first understanding how the human mind reacts to and interprets situations. There is a basic process that happens to everyone whenever they are confronted by a situation or event. The minute something happens, your brain automatically has a thought that helps you interpret the situation. In most cases, this thought happens so quickly that you may not even notice it. Your reaction to the event or situation is influenced by how you interpret it. If you interpret a situation positively, you will most likely feel positive emotions or display positive behaviors. Conversely, if you interpret it negatively, you may experience negative emotions or react with negative behaviors.

Doctor physician consulting with male patients in hospital exam room. Men's health concept.The best way to understand how a person’s interpretation of an event can influence their feelings and behaviors is with an example. Imagine, if you will, that two different people are expecting a phone call from one of their friends at a specific time. Unfortunately, for some reason, the friend never calls. The first person interprets the situation positively, assuming that their friend must be busy or that their phone battery must have died. They send their friend a text letting them know that they are still around if they want to call later, then go about their day as usual, not really thinking any more about it.

The second person, on the other hand, interprets the situation negatively. When their friend doesn’t call, they assume that they must have done something to make them angry or that their friend doesn’t like them anymore. They spend the rest of the day worrying about what they did to make their friend dislike them.

As you can see, both people experienced the exact same event. It was simply the way that they interpreted the event that influenced their feelings and behaviors.

Sadly, some people have negative core beliefs that influence their interpretations of nearly every event that they encounter. For instance, they may feel like they are not worthwhile or like they don’t have anything to contribute to society. Perhaps they believe that no one likes them or that they aren’t smart enough or talented enough to succeed. These core beliefs color every situation that they encounter in life, causing most of their feelings and behaviors to be negative. Over time, this can result in mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and phobias.

The goal of CBT is to help people identify and change these negative core beliefs. Once people are able to replace negative beliefs with more accurate positive beliefs, they start to see the world differently. Situations that caused fear, anxiety, or depression in the past are suddenly no big deal. With the help of cognitive behavioral therapy, they may be able to overcome their depression, fears, and phobias and live a happier, more fulfilling life.

*This article was written by Ferdinand Marin. All views, opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the authors and/or speakers and do not necessarily reflect the view, opinion, conclusion and/or policy of ExamWorks and its affliates.

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