Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a form of therapy designed to treat psychiatric problems such as depression and anxiety. The theory was founded by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s as a means of treating depression and relies on the basis of what Beck calls automatic thoughts, which are characteristically negative, that sufferers have about themselves, the world around them and the future.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States will endure some form of mental illness in any given year. CBT works according to the method of developing an understanding of these sufferers and working to amend their automatic thoughts and essentially change destructive behaviors. Numerous studies have found CBT to be the most effective. In a comparison done between anxiety treatments of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and traditional talk therapy, CBT far exceeds the success rates of the other two methods in patient improvement rates.
1. Unpacking Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive distortions refer to the warped or irrational thought patterns and mindsets that are commonly found in an individual diagnosed with a mental illness or psychiatric condition. These thoughts are characterized by irrationality and pessimism and affect sufferers to the point that the thoughts become their reality, and eventually lead to destructive behaviors or dysfunctional lifestyles. The method of unpacking these thoughts is necessary to restructure them.
These cognitive distortions include Filtering (ignoring positive influences and focusing on the negative), Magnifying (exaggerating a situation to be more catastrophic than it is), and “Black and White” thinking, which can be described as an all-or-nothing mindset with no grey areas. These are only three of the many distortions that are experienced. The aim is to unpack which of these the patient is suffering from, how it affects them, and then work towards understanding the symptoms in order to alter these thought patterns.