Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treatment for Shifting Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior
The way we think influences how we feel, and how we feel influences the way we act. Thus, changing our thoughts also changes our emotions and behavior. That’s the foundational concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment, an evidence-based approach that helps young adults shift irrational and destructive thinking toward more realistic and positive thought patterns.
When to Seek Help
Are you or a loved one experiencing symptoms of trauma and PTSD, anxiety, depression, or co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse or eating disorders? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment can help. Integrated with other modalities as part of an individualized treatment plan, CBT is proven to be effective in guiding clients to find sustainable healing from a wide range of mental health issues.
To determine a diagnosis and the most effective approach to mental healthcare, consult a therapist or start the discussion with your family doctor. A detailed assessment with a mental health professional will give you the information you need to determine whether a residential program or an outpatient program is the best way forward. Because CBT is one of the most effective evidence-based therapeutic modalities, and can be applied to many different mental health conditions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods are likely to be part of the treatment process.
Know the Facts
CBT is the most researched form of psychotherapy, and no other form of therapy has been shown to be more effective.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
CBT is a form of talk therapy based in the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck. Beck believed that most of our suffering derives from the way we interpret what happens to us, or what might happen to us, as opposed to the reality of what occurs. Therefore, changing out interpretations relieves our suffering by allowing us to experience the world in a more positive light.
One of the central tenets of CBT is that thoughts affect emotions, and these emotional responses then affect behavior. Following this logic, allowing distorted thoughts to grow leads to difficult emotions and, subsequently, destructive actions. On the other hand, positive thinking leads to positive emotions, and thus to positive and beneficial behaviors.
CBT is considered the gold standard of treatment approaches, as a large body of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research has validated its effectiveness and successful outcomes. Recent Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research shows its effectiveness for anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, as well as depression and PTSD.
Hence, CBT has been proven to be effective in the treatment of the following disorders and conditions:
- Anxiety disorders
- Trauma and PTSD
- Panic attacks
- Bipolar disorder
- Substance abuse
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Phobias, including social anxiety.
Although CBT helps clients heal from all of these psychological diagnoses, there are CBT benefits for young adults even when they are not suffering from a specific mental health challenge. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods can guide them to form healthy habits that will support them throughout their lives. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment can help with grief and loss, low self-esteem, insomnia, relationship issues such as codependency, serious health diagnoses, chronic pain, and general life stress.
What to Expect
How does CBT work? Credentialed Cognitive Behavioral therapists guide clients to examine their thoughts, fears, and beliefs, and compare them to reality. For example, if a young adult who prides herself on being a good student is intensely anxious about failing a college exam, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety might include listing the reasons why that’s unlikely and learning to focus on more positive outcomes. Or if a client has been in a car accident and is terrified to drive again, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment might include looking up realistic statistics about the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Eventually, clients are able to take back control of how they see, respond to, and interact with the world.
There are a number of different approaches and types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment, including:
- Cognitive therapy, which focuses on identifying and changing distorted thinking and the resulting emotions and actions
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which uses mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance as key elements in reconciling seemingly opposing realities
- Multimodal therapy, addressing the interconnected factors of behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal relationships, and biological considerations
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, which helps clients recognize and shift irrational beliefs and thoughts.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment is considered a short-term therapeutic treatment. Typically, it takes between five and 20 CBT sessions for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods to take effect and for clients to experience CBT benefits.
CBT for Panic Attacks
Research validates the efficacy of CBT for panic disorder and for panic attacks associated with other types of anxiety disorders. One recent study showed significant treatment benefits in 93 percent of young adult patients. Through CBT, clients learn how to cope with the symptoms of panic attacks—which include both physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath and heart palpitations, and cognitive/psychological symptoms, specifically an intense fear of dying or losing control.
CBT techniques help people identify the frightening thoughts that arise during a panic attack and replace them with healthier ways of thinking. For example, they learn to use reassuring self-talk, reminding themselves, “I know what this is. I’m having a panic attack. I am not going to die. It will pass.” In addition, they learn relaxation exercises, like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, that help them manage their fears and reduce the tension in their bodies during an attack or in moments of anxiety.
Because panic attacks are so scary and uncomfortable, people who have them often develop avoidance behaviors—they avoid certain activities or places in order to head off a possible panic attack. A CBT technique called desensitization can help clients move past avoidance behaviors by guiding them to better manage anxiety-producing stimuli. CBT also supports them to identify anxiety triggers, such as caffeine or nicotine, as well as healthy behaviors that can enhance their ability to cope with anxiety—like exercise, yoga, or meditation.
What to Expect in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment begins with an initial CBT session in which the the therapist asks about the client’s symptoms—both emotional and physical—as well as specific challenges they are currently facing. In addition, the Cognitive Behavioral therapist and client will discuss the goals of the CBT sessions, and what CBT benefits they hope to gain. Perhaps they want to overcome social anxiety, or learn to get in an airplane again after a turbulent flight.
Some of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods that may be used in CBT sessions include:
- Exposure therapy, a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety in which the client is gradually exposed to frightening or anxiety-producing situations or thoughts, while learning healthy coping skills for dealing with the emotions that come up
- Reframing or restructuring catastrophic thinking and distorted beliefs toward more realistic and positive thoughts
- Guided discovery, in which the Cognitive Behavioral therapist asks questions that help the client challenge their own beliefs and become aware of other perspectives
- Shifting self-talk from critical and negative to compassionate and constructive
- Thought recording, in which the client looks at evidence both for and against their negative beliefs and uses the evidence to support a more positive and realistic outlook
- Writing and journaling as a way to reflect on thoughts and progress
- Scheduling rewarding and positive self-care activities to engage in on a daily basis
- Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
In addition, Cognitive Behavioral therapists often use an approach in CBT sessions known as SMART:
Hence, this approach is designed to meet concrete goals and expectations within a clear time frame.
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Care at Newport Institute
Newport Institute’s approach to young adult mental healthcare is integrated—encompassing both medical and behavioral healthcare. In addition, our model of care is integrative—blending evidence-based clinical modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment with scientifically validated experiential therapies.
Each young adult receives a tailored treatment plan customized for their specific needs, history, and underlying issues. The plan includes a number of different therapeutic approaches in order to tap into what is most effective for the client in supporting self-expression, growth, and skill-building. Thus, CBT sessions are part of a varied schedule that also includes modalities such as mindfulness techniques, creative art therapy, and nutrition therapy.
Moreover, our model of care addresses the trauma and attachment wounds at the root of young adult mental health and co-occurring disorders. For example, a Newport Institute therapist might use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment with a client in order to relieve the emotional pain and distressing thoughts that are catalyzing substance abuse. As Aaron Beck, the founder of CBT, put it, “As applied to substance abuse, the cognitive approach helps individuals to come to grips with the problems leading to emotional distress and to gain a broader perspective on their reliance on drugs for pleasure and/or relief from discomfort.”
In summary, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment is a powerful and effective approach for healing the underlying causes of the most common mental health issues in young adults. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods—complemented by other trauma-informed modalities—emerging adults process past experiences and gain the skills and self-understanding that support them to move forward into a thriving future.