WHAT IS CBT?
There are many different forms of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (often referred to as CBT) is one type that helps patients understand the relationship between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. By better understanding these inter-relationships, patients develop the freedom to respond differently to upsetting thoughts, difficult emotions, or habitual behaviors. This is a present- and symptom-focused approach, meaning that the emphasis is on the "here and now" and the clinician helps patients reduce the functional impairment caused by their symptoms. Decades of research supports the use of CBT for fear-based conditions, such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.
In a typical CBT treatment, clinicians start by conducting a comprehensive assessment that identifies patients' psychological difficulties. Clinicians then develop a skills-based intervention that is uniquely tailored to improve the patient's quality of life and reduce their distress.
To achieve maximum benefit, patients are expected to practice the CBT skills in their home environment. Much like learning an instrument, only so much improvement can occur in a weekly appointment; putting the skills into action in the appropriate context is key!
Once patients have learned the relevant CBT skills and their symptoms have improved, treatment usually shifts towards "relapse prevention." In other words, clinicians help patients identify and prepare for future stressors that may cause an increase in symptoms (e.g., transition to college; starting a new job). In doing so, CBT teaches patients how to be their own therapist.
For additional information on CBT, visit the website for the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (www.abct.org)