What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, allows people to identify and deconstruct negative thought patterns that have an adverse effect on their emotions and behaviors. Examining and breaking down these thought patterns with the support of a therapist helps people develop new beliefs that are resilient and empowering. (new beliefs that are more useful and resilient) Throughout this process, people with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions can alleviate their stress, boost their confidence, and take action to improve their quality of life.

The History of CBT

Dr. Aaron T. Beck, MD, is widely known as the “father” of CBT. In the 1950s, he worked with patients living with depression. Dr. Beck noticed that many of them expressed specific beliefs that created “automatic negative thoughts.” These deeply-held beliefs were affecting their thoughts patterns, which in turn influenced their feelings and behaviors. 

As Dr. Beck helped his patients analyze these cognitive distortions and adapt their thought patterns, they began engaging in healthier behaviors and felt happier in their everyday lives. His early work became the foundation of CBT.

Studies have demonstrated the long-term effects of CBT for people who struggle with anxiety. For example, one documented study found that people who underwent CBT treatment had better outcomes than control groups who didn’t get CBT therapy for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Young children can also experience anxiety disorders. Research shows that children as young as 3 can experience significant improvements in mood and stress levels after modified CBT treatment, and age-appropriate CBT with parental involvement can be an effective form of therapy for children with anxiety. Because CBT is safe and beneficial for all age groups, it is considered the gold standard for anxiety treatment. 

How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work?

When starting CBT, your therapist will help you identify thoughts and beliefs that do not serve you. They can also help you explore the roots of these beliefs and determine when these negative thoughts began cropping up. You can begin to see how your thoughts direct your behaviors and use this knowledge to make changes to your life. 

In subsequent sessions, your therapist will help you break down these thought patterns and learn to recognize cognitive distortions. They will help you look for evidence behind your beliefs to avoid engaging in “all or nothing” thinking. Many people who suffer from depression or anxiety are prone to assuming the worst in every situation. For instance, if someone you like rejects you, you might think “I’m unlovable and I’ll never find a partner.” CBT can help you challenge this idea and recognize that one disappointment does not define you. Taking a look at challenging situations from a new angle with the support of a therapist can help you see new outcomes.

The idea that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected is at the core of CBT. A CBT counselor can also help you set realistic goals and start taking steps to achieve what you want in life. By changing the way you think about yourself, CBT can help you take your life in an entirely new direction.

Who Can Benefit From CBT?

Today, CBT is primarily used to treat people with anxiety and depression. People who are struggling with anger management, addiction, eating disorders, phobias, and panic attacks can also benefit from CBT.

Furthermore, CBT is helpful for people who may not be diagnosed with a specific mental health condition, yet still need a bit of help managing their stress or dealing with low self-esteem. Overall, it is a widely applicable form of therapy that can be modified to treat many different conditions.

Why We Offer Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

In our practice, almost all of our therapists incorporate methods drawn from CBT into their clients’ treatment plans. While some of our therapists will use CBT occasionally, others specialize in supporting their clients with CBT and use it as their standard approach. 

Why do our therapists find CBT so useful when it comes to treating clients with different diagnoses? Although CBT is particularly effective for treating clients with anxiety or depression, many of the techniques from CBT are beneficial for anyone, even people who are not struggling with a  mental health condition. Everyone gets stuck in negative thoughts patterns once in a while. Learning how to look for evidence behind your beliefs and shift your perspective is a helpful practice for anyone who would like to manage stress in a healthier way.

You Can Break Free From Negative Thoughts

If you want to work with a therapist who practices cognitive-behavioral therapy, you can reach out to us on our contact page to learn more about our practice. Furthermore, if you would like to book a session, you can head to our scheduling page to set up an appointment at one of our offices in Edina, Plymouth, St. Cloud, or Bloomington.

Posts Coming Soon

man in therapy

Bipolar Disorder and ADHD: Co-Occurrence And What It Looks Like

It’s interesting to note how differently physical and mental conditions are perceived. For example, no one thinks twice about co-existing medical conditions. If someone tells you that they have both arthritis and diabetes, you’d wish them well but would likely not bat an eye. These types of co-occurrences also happen with mental health disorders.

For example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder (BPD) can be frequently and confusingly co-morbid. ADHD is a neurological condition while bipolar is a mood-based disorder. On the surface, they sound distinct. In reality, it’s trickier than it first looks to distinguish between the two. But without accurate diagnoses, treatment plans can go awry.

A Brief Review Of Common Co-Occurring Symptoms (ADHD And BPD)

Bipolar Disorder

Manic

  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Racing thoughts
  • Moving and talking quickly
  • Talking a lot
  • Restlessness
  • Not sleeping
  • Risky behaviors
  • Inflated sense of self

Depressive

  • Chronic feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gaining and/or losing weight
  • Loss of focus
  • No longer want to engage in activities you once enjoyed
  • Thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide

ADHD

  • Distractibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Moving and talking quickly
  • Restlessness
  • Sensitivity to stress
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Poor time management skills
  • Indecisiveness

As you can see, there is some significant overlap that can further complicate diagnoses.

4 Factors To Consider During The Diagnostic Phase

man in therapy

  1. If the assessment takes place during the manic phase for someone with bipolar, it can be mistaken for ADHD alone. ADHD symptoms do not typically come and go. If this is observed, it might point toward a bipolar manic episode.
  2. Someone with bipolar disorder may display symptoms of ADHD when neither a manic nor depressive episode is happening. This makes it more likely that they also have ADHD.
  3. Both conditions cause mood swings, but the triggers are quite different. For people with bipolar disorder, mood swings are an inherent part of the disorder. For ADHD, the causes of mood swings are as obvious as they’d be for anyone. If they, for example, break something, inattention is probably to blame.
  4. People are born with ADHD and most often are diagnosed at school age. Bipolar disorder most often appears later in life.

How To Help With The Diagnostic Process

To further complicate matters, your doctor will also have to rule out other possible causes for symptoms like those mentioned above. These might include (but are not limited to) depression, medication side effects, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Your input will be essential during this assessment.

There is always the chance that both bipolar disorder and ADHD are present — with or without any of the other issues. And further still, many medical conditions can co-exist with BPD and ADHD, causing more profound symptoms for any of the co-existing conditions. Some of the factors that will be taken into account are:

  • Specific stressors in your life
  • Possible triggers you face
  • Medications you take (if any)
  • The age at which symptoms first emerged
  • Whether ADHD-like symptoms present during times of mood stability (not manic or depressive)
  • The impact of symptoms in your day-to-day life
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Medical history
  • Family history

After such a thorough evaluation is made the next step is to discuss potential treatment ideas and protocols.

Treatment For Bipolar Disorder and ADHD Co-Occurrence

Every person and every case is unique. Therefore, your journey will not be sketched out using a cookie-cutter approach. Working closely with you — and perhaps others in your life — your mental health team will take a fluid approach. All elements will be considered and minds will remain open.

On their own, both ADHD and bipolar disorder are challenging. Together, they can feel daunting. But, with a skilled professional on your side, the obstacles can be overcome as you move forward. Contact us today to discover how mindfulness-based approaches like CBT therapy can effectively treat these conditions and enhance your well-being.

woman of color looking at her reflection in a glass window smiling

How Does CBT Help Depression?

About five percent of the adults on the planet have been diagnosed with depression. It boggles the mind to think how many others have not sought help or are unable to get such help. We’re not talking about having the occasional case of the blues. Depression is a serious mental health disorder with an alarming link to self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Fortunately, a broad range of treatment options exist. For people with mild to moderate depression levels, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has become a frontline choice — sometimes in combination with other approaches and/or medications. Let’s take a closer look at CBT and depression.

How Does CBT Work?

For starters, CBT is known for being a short-term treatment approach. Often, no more than 20 sessions are needed. The founding principles are as such:

  • Distorted thought patterns will result in distorted beliefs and thus, unhealthy behaviors
  • By identifying your counterproductive thinking, you can derail this cycle
  • From there, healthier cognition can replace the original patterns, e.g. positive self-talk and emotional regulation
  • Your CBT therapist will aim to empower you with the skills needed to repeat this corrective approach as needed

The distorted thought patterns mentioned above usually fall into categories like:

  • Overgeneralization
  • Black-and-white thinking
  • Automatically choosing negative reactions while disqualifying the positive
  • Disproportionate response to minor events
  • Predicting a negative future
  • Fixating on one negative detail
  • Taking everything personally

As you might imagine, this approach can be ideal for someone struggling with a mood disorder like depression. It’s also useful if you have friends and family members to help you keep up with therapy appointments, medications, and CBT homework assignments.

How Does CBT Help Depression?

Typically, people diagnosed with depression struggle with a negative view of themselves, their world, and their future. This can get them locked into the thinking traps listed above. CBT, therefore, is tailor-made for such a case.

woman of color looking at her reflection in a glass window smilingSomething must be done to short-circuit the depressive spiral. Left unchecked, it can drag a person down into a dark place. CBT aims to help them recognize the causes and effects. At the same time, CBT homework makes people with depression more aware of how much control they have. This combination has been found effective in:

  • Improving the person’s mood and keeping it consistent
  • Increasing the amount of positive self-belief the client experiences
  • Promising carry-over thanks to the CBT “homework” between sessions

Depression is notorious for giving someone the feeling that they lack agency, e.g., life is bad, and nothing they do can change it. Conversely, CBT demystifies the process of understanding how one’s thoughts can be controlled, which, in turn, controls one’s beliefs, moods, and actions.

CBT is Not Necessarily For All People With Depression

Almost always, CBT is safe and effective. However, some co-existing conditions or circumstances could shift that equation. If you are depressed but also present with any of the below issues, be sure to tell your therapist right away:

  • Substance abuse (including alcohol)
  • Psychotic disorder
  • Mental retardation

In addition, if you’re diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with suicide risk, CBT may not be considered until other steps are taken to address the urgent needs of such a diagnosis.

How Do You Know If CBT is Right For You?

First and foremost, you’ll want to consult with an experienced therapist. Every person with depression is unique. When choosing a treatment plan, a qualified therapist knows how to factor in these distinct elements. Hence, we invite you to reach out to talk and learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the specifics of your situation. From there, we can get you on the road to recovery and healing.

man in a business suit walking down a city street

How Does CBT Help Anxiety?

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the world. As a result, there are many available treatment options. Right up there at or near the top of the list is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A short-term treatment, CBT is founded on the concept that thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behavior. Therefore, if distorted thinking can be identified and challenged, it will help unhealthy emotions and actions.

CBT can help teach someone with anxiety how to assess a situation before their embedded thought-feeling-behavior cycle kicks in. You might even choose to see it as pre-emptive fact-checking.

The 3 Steps of CBT For Anxiety

Identify the Distorted Thought

A person with anxiety may feel insecure or self-conscious. These negative thinking patterns can inspire feelings that they are unliked or unwanted. As a result, they avoid social gatherings. Recognizing this root cause is a giant first step toward healing.

Challenge the Distorted Thought

This is where fact-checking comes in. For example, if people don’t want you around, why would they invite you to the events you keep avoiding? It can be transformative to accept that your thoughts, feelings, and actions are not based on reality.

Replace the Distorted Thought

Once you realize that anxiety is lying to you, you can substitute a fact-based perspective. You might start with: Every when I feel uncomfortable or awkward in a crowd, people still like me and want me there. From there, new emotions and new behaviors will follow.

What Techniques Does a CBT Therapist Use to Apply the Above Steps?

Reframing

In this technique, you’ll be guided to explore the thought patterns in your life. You may, for example, discover that you have a tendency to:

  • Fixate on minor episodes or details
  • Default to the worst-case scenario
  • Use singular events to generalize about all events

Such awareness increases your chances of eventually replacing these patterns.

Challenging Thoughts

Negative thoughts or “cognitive distortions” cannot stand up to real-life evidence. So, once you’ve identified these patterns, it’s time to examine them closely. Thoughts are sensations, not facts. Therefore, when a thought becomes chronic and invasive, it helps immensely to apply facts to it. This positions you to start trying out activities that you’ve been avoiding.

man in a business suit walking down a city streetBehavioral Activation

Speaking of activities that you’ve been avoiding, CBT will help you stop the avoidance. Anxiety is blocking you, not reality. Thus, as you move forward with your treatment, you’ll be encouraged to literally schedule an activity that you previously evaded doing. Write it in your calendar and, when the day comes, move forward — armed with a new awareness of the truth.

A subset of this technique is called “behavioral experiments.” These can be performed whenever you get caught up in worst-case-scenario thinking. You work with your therapist to list everything you feel anxious about. Then, you break down the items on this list — one by one — and basically deconstruct them.

Recording

You’ll want to keep a journal of journal of some sort. Keep track of your fears, doubts, and triggers. Monitor your thoughts and organize them into categories, e.g. anxious thoughts vs. thoughts based on facts. Another powerful list would be juxtaposing the negative thinking you experience with the new positive thoughts you are replacing that with.

Relaxation Techniques

CBT guides you to reduce stress by developing specific skills that can be applied whenever you need them. It might be progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, breathing exercises, or whatever else works for you.

Learn More About How CBT Helps With Anxiety

If anxiety is hampering your daily functionality, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be the right option for you. I invite you to reach out and learn more by scheduling a free and confidential consultation.