What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an umbrella of many different types of techniques that teache people how to change their dysfunctional thinking and dysfunctional behaviors. It is a skill-building approach to treatment that teaches clients to overcome their problems by learning new skills. Functional thinking and behaviors are explained and practiced in the therapy session, then followed up by assignment of between-session practice. Clients keep track of their progress with self-monitoring records or specialized questionnaires so that their therapist can target problem areas for intervention and keep track of progress. A variety of techniques may be used along with traditional CBT techniques including Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Brainspotting and meditative practices.

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How is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy different from other Therapies?

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on teaching new skills to help people manage and prevent their symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapists realize that people can recover from a problem although they may not understand its origin. They work in partnership with the client, encouraging practice of new skills. Cognitive behavioral therapists distinguish between the causes that originally created a problem and those that maintain the problem. Changes in thinking, feelings and behaviors are measures of progress in therapy.

Why does the Anxiety & Stress Center Recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Scientific research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for eliminating debilitating anxiety. For some individuals, cognitive behavioral therapy combined with pharmacotherapy is maximally beneficial. We refer to psychiatrists trained in state of the art medication of anxiety. Furthermore, some individuals prefer to work on interpersonal and deeper emotional issues while addressing their anxiety. In these cases, we provide individual insight-oriented psychotherapy. Thus, we offer a multidisciplinary treatment approach at the Anxiety & Stress Center, and hope that eventually all of our clients will learn new and more effective coping skills as taught in cognitive behavioral therapy.

I heard that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy makes people more anxious. Isn't the therapist supposed to make me feel better?

Cognitive behavioral therapists use special techniques to help people learn to manage their fears and anxiety. Some of these techniques (called exposure-based therapies) involve learning how to do the things you fear and avoid. Cognitive behavioral therapists help people learn special skills for managing their symptoms before they ever attempt difficult activities. Only after learning these special skills will your therapist show you how and gently assist you in overcoming your anxiety one small step at a time. The anxiety you may feel during the initial stages of this type of therapy can be greater than the anxiety you experience at home, but with one difference – you are practicing new ways to manage and prevent anxiety during your therapy session with a caring, highly trained professional.

It takes specialized training to conduct this type of therapy. All of our staff who offer cognitive behavioral therapy have been highly trained and have many years of experience working with anxiety disorders.

Won't therapy that has me doing things I'm afraid of make me worse?

Often people mistakenly assume that if they could completely avoid the stressors in their lives then they would feel better. Since stress and upsetting events are a predictable part of life, then it is impossible to completely avoid them. Thus, the best policy for dealing with stress is the one that prepares you to handle stress and anxiety effectively. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you to successfully deal with the things you fear. From the beginning, you will learn skills to help you deal with initial surges in anxiety. Almost all anxiety disorder patients find that after therapy is over, their anticipatory fears were much greater than the anxiety they actually experienced during therapy. The goal is not to avoid all anxiety and stress, but to gently and gradually help you succeed in your efforts to manage the stress that is inevitable and to prevent anxiety that is unnecessary.