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What is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapeutic treatment, proposed and developed by psychiatrist Aaron Beck, which explores the influence of cognitive constructions (the way we conceptualize reality) on the emotional and behavioral patterns of each of us.

One of the basic principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is that situations don't determine people's emotions and behaviors, but people's cognitions (THOUGHTS) and interpretations about the situations in question.

Therefore, according to the theoretical basis of CBT, depending on the way we interpret aspects of our reality, there are different emotional reactions that can be activated, which, in turn, will induce us to take different actions.

CBT helps a person identify automatic thoughts, evaluate those thoughts and respond to them in a more functional, healthier way.

The issue with the distinction between thoughts and emotions

Thoughts are ideas: “I can't do anything well”, “Nothing will ever get better”

Emotions and feelings are described in just one word: sad, upset, anxious, worried, envious, guilty, ashamed (there are 6 basic emotions - happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust and anger) and countless feelings that result from passing emotions through the scrutiny of cognition).

Throughout our life history, structures of meaning (called schemes) are formed, and those “shape” the way we deal with the experience of everyday life.

These schemes manifest themselves in the form of dysfunctional thoughts about ourselves and the world around us (for example: “I am worthless”, “No one will ever be able to really like me”) causing psychological, emotional and behavioral instability while contributing both to the absence of mental health and to the emergence of psychopathology.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to reformulate the patient's dysfunctional belief system and schema through the therapeutic process. To achieve these objectives, various techniques are used (for example: Socratic dialogue, systematic exposure, cognitive restructuring).

CBT allows the patient to obtain tools to distinguish between thoughts, feelings and reality itself. This distinction facilitates the perception of negative automatic processes that contribute to maintaining the state of psychopathology.

The patient is "invited" to analyze his experiences, becoming aware of the influence of negative automatic thoughts on his emotional regulation. Then, he or she is encouraged to challenge these negative thoughts, questioning them, and looking for alternative explanations based on real and concrete facts.

Furthermore, the success of the cognitive-behavioral intervention, and of any other psychotherapeutic aspect, is based on the establishment of a therapeutic relationship based on trust and empathy.

There is a lot of scientific evidence in favor of the effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in:

  • Depressive Disorders

  • Anxious Disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobias

  • Substance Abuse

  • Eating Disorders

Exemplification of a CBT technique

Example of dysfunctional thinking: They will laugh at me during the presentation

Alternative thought: “I have no evidence that this will happen, on other occasions when I made presentations, only one person laughed during my presentation. Continuing to think like that only causes me anxiety and makes presentation difficult. I usually have good results and the teacher usually likes my presentation."

The ultimate goal of CBT is for the patient to become his own therapist, leaving therapy with a set of tools to learn how to deal with the most varied situations possible, learning to deal with his dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors.

The Mental Health Clinic Isabel Henriques wishes you an excellent weekend ;)

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