CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a type of therapy where individuals are trained to notice negative and destructive self-talk patterns that lead to self-destructing behaviors. Instead of falling victim to these thoughts, CBT works to reframe those thoughts in a different, healthy perspective to draw individuals away from unhealthy behaviors.
What does CBT address?
CBT addresses numerous mental health disorders, such as:
- Eating disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Bipolar disorders
With the help of a counselor, individuals are guided through the thought patterns these mental health disorders cause, and given the tools to face and consequently overcome these problematic thoughts. These unhealthy thought patterns are known as distortions, and frequently look like the following:
- “All or nothing” thinking, where the world is black and white
- Overgeneralization, where one negative incident is used to characterize everything
- Filtering, where we filter out all the good that happened and look only at the negative
- Jumping to conclusions, where we become sure that something negative will happen without any evidence to actually support the claim
- Catastrophizing, where we assume the worst is going to happen even though the actual incident is much less worse than made out to be
- Labeling, or taking one negative incident and using it to stereotype yourself
- Emotional reasoning, where if you feel a certain way, it must be true
These are just some of the cognitive distortions the mind can concoct, which CBT seeks to address.
Can I address cognitive distortions at home?
To begin, it’s always best to meet with a counselor as you start on your journey to mental health. Trained to recognize and guide individuals out of the distortions’ murky waters, mental health professionals can help you implement CBT techniques on your own.
When you feel the pressures of negative thoughts, or recognize patterns of behavior which are unhealthy, certain CBT exercises will help you build the mental muscles essential to combating these thoughts.
These at-home CBT exercises can include:
- The Triple Column – Draw out three columns on a sheet of paper, and label the first column “Automatic Talk”. This is where you’ll write down what the negative voice in your head is saying. In the next column, you’ll write down the cognitive distortions that are present in the Automatic Talk column. Are you overgeneralizing, labeling, jumping to conclusions or all the above? In the third column, rewrite your automatic talk into reasonable, rationalized thought. This will allow you to concretely view the distortion written on paper and then rewire that thought into a more rational, less emotional fact.
- The Perceived Threat – If you’re giving a speech next week, you might cross into worst-case scenario thinking: “I’m going to bomb the speech, get an F in the class, never graduate from college and be unemployed for the rest of my life.”. When you feel your brain crossing those boundaries, stop and think. Why would you bomb the speech if you prepare well? If the rest of your grades are good, is one poor grade going to keep you from graduating? Taking a moment to face the threat and figure out what variables are controllable. Determining whether or not your fear is realistic or unreasonable can offer you a different perspective that brings peace of mind.
- Active Problem Solving – Losing your job, for example, is a problem, but a fixable one. However, your brain might present worst-case scenario thoughts. To actively problem solve, adopt these four steps to regain control over the situation:
- Determine your attitude or orientation towards the problem – Are you looking at the whole situation negatively or catastrophically?
- Define the problem clearly – Differentiate what is actually going on (“I lost my job”) as opposed to what is perceived to be going on (“I have no purpose and am a failure.”)
- Brainstorm solutions – With job loss, the solution would be to find a new job, but first things first. Take time to determine what kind of job you want, update your resume, draft a cover letter or two and brush up on interview skills.
- Take action – Put this to-do list into action and begin taking steps towards solving the problem at hand, one task at a time.
Other CBT techniques include meditation, planning out how you would cope if the worst case scenario were to happen, and weighing the cost of excessively worrying about a situation. CBT can help you gain a healthy perspective and keep that healthy frame of mind at all times.
Speak with a counselor
Of course, CBT is best done under the guidance of a mental health specialist through treatment programs like those offered through Silvermist Recovery. No matter what mental health issues you’ve encountered, healing is possible. Reach out today at (724) 268-4858.