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What is Cognitive Therapy?

Cognitive therapy is a scientifically-validated treatment that has been shown to be highly effective in treating numerous psychological problems and disorders. Surprisingly, most other forms of therapy have not been clinically-validated by experimental research. Even more surprisingly, many of those that have been tested have not proven to be very effective. Cognitive therapy on the other hand has been the subject of more than 300 scientific studies, and is considered to be among the most effective treatments for depression, anxiety, and many other problems. Because it is so effective, cognitive therapy is typically briefer than traditional talk-therapy. Some people need as few as 6 sessions to achieve their goals. Other people with more long-standing problems may need several months or more to adequately address their treatment needs.

What is Cognitive Therapy All About?

Cognitive therapy is based on the premise that although our problems may have started in the past, they are being maintained by things in the present. Consequently, the most effective way of treating problems is by targeting the present. In this way, Cognitive therapy is different from traditional talk-therapy in that it does not focus exclusively on the past. Instead, people learn to identify their current thought patterns that result in negative moods and counterproductive or self-sabotaging behavior. 


How Does Cognitive Therapy Work?

Cognitive Therapy work is founded on what is known as the cognitive model of emotions and behavior. In a nutshell, the cognitive model explains the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behavior. People usually attribute their distress to difficult situations, but in reality, it is our reactions to situations that are more to blame. Situations can trigger overly negative or distorted thinking. These distorted thoughts result in negative emotions and maladaptive behavior. In other words, perceptions often dictate how we feel and what we do. If you want to feel and behave differently, one effective place to start is by changing your perception. The more balanced our thinking, generally the better we feel. 


What Happens in Cognitive Therapy?

During the first session, you and your cognitive therapist will collaborate to set your goals for treatment. Once you agree on clearly defined goals, therapy will focus on examining the cognitive and behavioral barriers to goals, and then target these barriers in a very focused way from session to session. For example, if your goal is to be more successful at work or get a promotion, some behavioral barriers may be not speaking up during meetings and avoiding interactions with supervisors. If this is due to social anxiety, your cognitive therapist will help you identify thoughts you’re having that contribute to the anxiety, and then help you develop cognitive and behavioral skills to reduce the anxiety and be more visible around promotion time. 

Click for more information about  What CBT is and How it Works