Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was pioneered by American psychiatrist, Aaron T. Beck, Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. Emotions, thoughts and behaviors all influence each other and form the basis for CBT. We build rules to live by to defend against certain negative core beliefs that are painful to experience. Out of these rules come automatic or habitual thoughts that can become so rigid that they lead to distorted perspectives. We engage in all-or-nothing thinking and “fortune-telling” the future. We filter out the good in life and obsess on the negatives. Our emotions fall out of balance and our behaviors spin out of control.
If you’ve used CBT, you know it is reality-based and effective. If you haven’t, we can work with you to understand how your automatic thoughts often undermine healthy behaviors.
CBT is probably the most-used approach to talk therapy. It focuses on perspective, and how one’s thoughts about a situation often affect one’s feelings and actions. Yet, it also acknowledges that behaviors and emotions can impact one’s thoughts for better or worse.
CBT also examines our automatic thoughts, the intermediate rules that govern our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and certain core beliefs that underlie these. Negative core beliefs, such as “I am worthless” may come from past unhealthy relationships and then internalized as negative self-talk. In defending against such painful negative core beliefs, we may develop a set of “shoulda-coulda-woulda” thoughts that defend us from suffering but that also keep us from healthy and meaningful functioning.
CBT has been shown to help treat a wide range of emotional and physical health conditions in adults, young people and children, including general anxiety, specific phobias, depression, panic disorder, chronic pain, and substance abuse. It is often thought of as a skills-based modality that includes brainstorming, problem-solving, exposure-and-response prevention, and cost-benefit analysis. Some of that work includes keep a “thought log” in which events are listed beside one’s “hot thoughts” about those events, the emotions that accompany those thoughts, and the actions taken. Often, a therapist asks a client to “consider the evidence” for certain “distorted cognitions” such as all-or-nothing and black-or-white thinking, fortune-telling, or discounting the positives. In doing this work, the client strives to replace distorted thoughts with alternative or balanced perspectives that may mitigate catastrophic feelings and maladaptive behaviors.
At UR, our therapists are well-versed in CBT approaches and may use them with you as part of your individual and group therapy. To place CBT in the context of 12 Step work, we want to help you rid yourself of “stinkin’ thinkin’” as you “move a muscle and change a thought.”