Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was originally created by the late Aaron Beck in the 1960s. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that targets an individual’s negative thought processes and behaviors to effect positive change in one’s life. CBT has shown treatment efficacy for a variety of illnesses and symptoms including:
- Bipolar Disorders
- Substance use
- Personality disorders
Variations of CBT have been created over the years. Trauma-Focused CBT and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) were designed to treat trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A newer form of CBT was specifically created for psychosis called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis (CBTp).
How does CBT work?
CBT works by first collecting a large amount of historical information about a person. A CBT therapist will then create a clinical formulation of how one’s early life experiences created their core belief structure. These core beliefs impact how one sees and interacts with the world. Core beliefs create what is called intermediary beliefs. These are rules that govern our thought processes, for example ‘if I don’t pass this test then I am a failure.’ These intermediary beliefs give rise to what CBT begins to target first – automatic thoughts. These are thoughts that happen quickly throughout the day yet uphold our deep-rooted core beliefs.
An example to highlight an automatic thought and what CBT would target is below. Someone has the thought they are ‘horrible at their job.’ After having that thought they feel unmotivated and exhausted so they call in sick to work that day. On the other hand, if the person had the thought ‘everyone makes mistakes while employed’ instead this thought then leaves room for a person to grow and maintain momentum in their life. CBT would work to alter the first thought so it would align more so with the second thought example.
CBT also focuses on a person’s behavioral patterns. CBT posits that our behaviors and actions can influence our thought processes. Essentially, by starting to do something (e.g. working out or leaving the house) we can create momentum to accomplish needed tasks in our lives.
CBT therapy interweaves both cognitive and behavioral interventions to create lasting change in people’s lives.