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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Exercises
Cognitive behavioral therapy refers to a broad array of treatments, techniques, and ways of conceptualizing different psychological problems. Numerous cognitive behavioral therapy exercises have been created to intervene with different presenting concerns, from anxiety and depression, to assertiveness skills deficits. Below is a list of cognitive behavioral therapy exercises common to a number of different CBT treatments:
Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise designed to help people examine unhelpful thinking patterns, and devise new ways of reacting to problematic situations. Cognitive restructuring often involves keeping a thought record, which is a way of tracking dysfunctional automatic thoughts, and devising adaptive alternative responses. Click here to learn about recognizing cognitive distortions.
Activity Scheduling: Activity scheduling is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise that helps people engage in behaviors they ordinarily would not engage in. The intervention involves identifying a low frequency behavior, and finding time throughout the week to schedule the behavior to increase its frequency. It is often employed in treatment for depression, as a way of re-introducing rewarding behaviors into people’s routines.
Graded Exposure: Exposure is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise designed to reduce anxiety and fear through repeated contact with what is feared. This has been to shown to be among the most effective treatments for any psychological problem. The underlying theory has to do with avoidance of things that we fear resulting in increased fear and anxiety. By systematically approaching what you might normally avoid, a significant and lasting reduction in anxiety takes place.
Successive Approximation: Successive approximation is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise that helps people tackle difficult or overwhelming goals. By systematically breaking large tasks into smaller steps, or by performing a task similar to the goal, but less difficult, people are able to gain mastery over the skills needed to achieve the larger goal.
Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise that helps people disengage from harmful ruminating or obsessing by learning to connect to the present moment. Mindfulness comes from Buddhist meditation, and is the subject of a significant amount of new research on effective treatment of psychological problems.
Skills Training: Skills Training is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise to help remedy skills deficits, and works through modeling, direct instruction, and role-plays. The most common subjects of skills training are social skills training, assertiveness training, and communication training.
Problem Solving: Problem Solving is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise to help people take an active role in finding solutions to problems. Chronic mood problems or repeated disappointment can result in people taking a passive role when difficult situations arise. By teaching people effective problem solving strategies, they are able to regain control and make the best of difficult situations.
Relaxation Breathing Training: Relaxation training is a cognitive behavioral therapy exercise designed to help people reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dizziness, etc. By reducing the body’s anxious arousal, people are able to think more clearly, thus increasing feelings of comfort and further decreasing anxiety symptoms.
For specific instructions relating to each of these interventions, visit the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques pages.