CBT focuses on helping people who struggle with thoughts, feelings, and actions that are unhelpful. That’s a broad group, I realize. When I say “unhelpful” it means things you wish you didn’t do, thoughts that won’t go away, acting in ways that deliver results opposite what you wanted, and so on. It’s still a very broad grouping, but hopefully it narrows it down.
When I was first given a name for these, it was “maladaptive.” I like “unhelpful” much more, because it’s more inclusive and doesn’t depend on my internal state being a result of trauma. The fact is, sometimes we don’t respond to life in the most productive ways. We might never have had a trauma, but still not be able to manage public speaking. CBT can help with that.
Here’s how CBT works.
In your first session, your therapist will get an idea of what you want to work on. Even if you don’t know, they can guide you through discussing the most troubling issues in your life at the present. This is one of the added strengths of CBT. It doesn’t require digging through the past. CBT focuses on where you are, and where you want to go.
Once you’ve narrowed down the items you want to work on, the therapist will help you determine if they’re related to one another or if they’re separate problems. Maybe you’re afraid of going to a dentist, but also afraid of speaking to an audience. These are obviously different issues.
The things to remember with CBT are that they’re not a cure. If your target area is causing anxiety, there may actually be a deeper reason for that anxiety and you do eventually need to address that. A CBT therapist might suggest medication to help alleviate symptoms while you do the work, and this is a common practice in therapy. Medication that relieves symptoms helps immensely when you start poking at the inner workings of your mind.
Next week I’ll get into how CBT works and find a good example for you.
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