Cognitive Behavior Theory


One of the most commonly used and most effective treatments for mental health issues, particularly anxiety disorders and depression, is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of psychotherapy focuses on our thoughts (cognitions) and the way they affect how we feel and act. There are a number of different techniques or approaches to cognitive-behavioral therapy, such as rational emotive behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and dialectic behavior therapy, but they are all rooted in one underlying theory: that our thoughts are what cause our feelings and behaviors. Working from this theory, a person can change the way they feel by changing the way they think, even if their external circumstances do not change.

Unlike a therapy like psychoanalysis, CBT emphasizes instruction and teaches specific techniques that will help patients achieve their particular goals. For example, someone using CBT to treat an anxiety disorder may learn techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. Education is emphasized over just talking, with the goal of unlearning past methods of thinking and replacing them with more rational responses. The theory is that this relearning is both faster and longer-lasting than some other types of "talk therapy." Indeed, CBT does tend to produce long-lasting results, usually in under 20 sessions.

Not all approaches to CBT are the same, but the theory behind CBT--alleviating symptoms through education and specific techniques, leading to lasting changes in unwanted feelings and behaviors--is the same no matter what approach a particular therapist takes.

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