Columbia Psychiatrist

Cognitive Behavioral TherapyColumbia, MD

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for changing one’s thoughts and behavior patterns. This structured form of therapy has been instrumental in helping people conquer a range of mental health issues, from addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder to anxiety and depression. In addition, CBT gives people the tools to navigate life’s stressful situations more effectively.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is available at Springs Health LLC in Columbia and the surrounding area. Our mental health professionals can help you change your thoughts and behavior so that you can change your life. Call 410-910-0032 for more information.

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    What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

    CBT is one of the most common and most studied forms of therapy where a psychiatrist works with a patient to identify harmful thoughts and behavior patterns. The patient learns to identify and change these patterns to make healthier decisions and achieve a greater state of mental wellness. Mental health professionals offer CBT to individuals one-on-one or in groups of people with similar problems or family members.

    This therapy tends to be very short-term and hands-on. The provider teaches patients how to identify and solve their current difficulties through in-session exercises and homework. Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, CBT focuses less on the past and more on how the patient can change their present thoughts and behaviors.

    “The patient learns to identify and change these patterns to make healthier decisions and achieve a greater state of mental wellness.”

    Core Principles of CBT

    The main idea behind CBT is that thoughts, feelings, and behavior impact each other and that replacing harmful thought patterns with more helpful ones will result in more positive feelings and behavior. The three basic principles of CBT are as follows:

    Core beliefs

    There are deep-rooted beliefs about how people view themselves, their environment, and their future. Childhood experiences inform these core beliefs.

    Dysfunctional assumptions

    Humans have a negative bias. They tend to give more emphasis to the negative than to the positive. This negative bias leads to irrational thought patterns that distort perceptions of reality.

    Automatic negative thoughts

    People have involuntary negative thoughts and perceptions that are difficult to recognize and lead to negative emotions. These automatic negative thoughts usually come in the form of cognitive distortions such as all-or-nothing statements and overgeneralizations. For example, thinking one is a failure for one mistake. These thoughts are often so ingrained and quick to trigger negative emotions that one does not even realize the thought is a distortion of reality.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients identify their core beliefs, dysfunctional assumptions, and automatic negative thoughts so they can see the world more accurately, feel better and engage in more positive behaviors. Techniques psychiatrists use to help patients do this include:

    • Cognitive restructuring. Becoming aware of negative thoughts so the patient can reframe them in a more positive way
    • Guided discovery. Asking the patient questions that challenge the patient’s viewpoint to broaden their thinking
    • Exposure therapy. Exposing the patient to their fears and phobias
    • Journaling. The patient keeps a record of their thoughts each day
    • Role-playing. Playing out difficult scenarios so patients can improve their problem-solving and communication skills
    • Stress reduction. Breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques to ease anxiety

    The above list is just a quick snapshot of some of the techniques CBT practitioners use. A psychiatrist will assess a patient's situation and match them with the tools and exercises that will be most helpful.

    “Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the patient identify their core beliefs, dysfunctional assumptions, and automatic negative thoughts so they can see the world more accurately, feel better and engage in more positive behaviors”

    The Benefits of CBT

    CBT is employed alone or in combination with other therapies to treat a wide range of mental and emotional issues. The treatment is a helpful tool for anyone who wants to find a better way to manage life’s difficult situations. For example, psychiatrists apply cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help people overcome depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and eating disorders. It is even an option for treating physical conditions such as chronic pain.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is very structured and tends to produce results in fewer sessions than other therapy methods. Perhaps CBT’s most significant advantage is being backed by science. A wealth of research indicates that CBT methods produce actual results—positive changes in people's feelings, behavior, and lives. Many studies suggest CBT leads to significant improvement in functioning and quality of life.

    “Perhaps CBT’s most significant advantage is being backed by science.”

    The CBT Process

    The first session involving CBT is similar to most first psychiatry appointments. The intake or consultation is a chance for the patient to ensure the doctor is a good fit. Next, the patient will discuss their problems and give the psychiatrist a picture of their past and present emotional and physical health. Finally, the patient will talk about their goals and expectations for treatment.

    The path toward reaching those goals is where CBT differs from other forms of therapy in that its steps involve dealing with the present through action rather than intensely analyzing a patient's past. The practitioner will take the patient through in-office exercises and assign homework aimed at taking the patient through the following steps:

    1. Identify troubling situations. These tend to be the current issues in a person’s life causing them the most trouble, such as job loss, mental health disorder, grief, loss of a relationship, or financial concerns.
    2. Awareness of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about situations. Once the patient identifies the troubling situations, they share their thoughts on these situations with the mental health care provider. The patient may keep a journal of all the beliefs and thoughts they hold about their troubles.
    3. Identify negative or inaccurate thinking. Next, the practitioner will ask the patient to pay attention to their emotional and behavioral responses to different situations to help the patient realize the thinking and behavior patterns that may be contributing to their troubles.
    4. Reshape negative or inaccurate thinking. Finally, the psychiatrist will help the patient realize which beliefs are inaccurate and tainting their perception of reality. Though this step can be difficult, it can help the patient realize where their thinking is unhelpful so they can replace it with more accurate and helpful thinking. This practice should lead to the patient making more healthy decisions.

    “The patient will discuss their current problems and give the psychiatrist a picture of their past and present emotional and physical health.”

    Follow Up Care

    The length of treatment varies according to the patient's needs, goals, and response to treatment. CBT tends to be short-term, ranging from five to 20 sessions. There are patients who see significant improvement after a handful of sessions and others who are in therapy for a few months before experiencing improvement.

    Much of the length of treatment will depend on the complexity and severity of the patient's issues and how quickly they respond to therapy. A leading goal of treatment is to leave the patient with a healthier view of their world and a set of tools they can use to make more positive life choices not based on misguided perceptions.

    “CBT tends to be short-term, ranging from five to 20 sessions.”