CBT a focused, versatile way to confront issues

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When I say CBT, I’m not referring to core body temperature, circuit board technology or the Children’s Ballet Theater. I’m referring to what I think is one of the greatest types of therapy that has been developed.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an adaptive, short-term and focused form of therapy used in treating a range of mental health disorders. The troubling situation is brought to the surface, and negative thoughts, emotions and beliefs about the situation are identified and then challenged in order to change how the client deals with their troubling situation.

The main concept behind CBT is that behaviors, thoughts and feelings are all interconnected — they all link together, thus creating interactions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be applied to many different disorders, such as depression, phobias, anxiety or addiction, and can also be helpful for someone who might need a more focused approach to managing a problem or stressful situation.

The process of CBT begins with the client bringing forth the problem they are currently facing. Negative thoughts surrounding the problem and undesirable feelings or thought patterns are brought to light. Introspection is a major portion of this process, along with varying self-discovery techniques. After those thoughts and feelings are evaluated, the behaviors that contribute to the client’s problem must be addressed. New coping skills are practiced and put into place so the client can move toward the desired behavior change. Ultimately, CBT concludes with the client being able to take their own course of action in dealing with the problem. The problem becomes diminished as the client’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors become the solution itself.

Recognizing the negative thoughts or destructive feeling patterns alone is not always enough to overcome the problem. Additional strategies are needed in order to conquer the problem. Cognitive Behavioral therapists are trained to work with many different situations. Multiple strategies can be applied to any number of situations, so if one strategy isn’t working for a client there is room to re-evaluate and find a strategy that does work. Taking part in activities such as role-play, relaxation techniques, mental coping strategies, journaling and scheduling out day-to-day activities can all be of help to the process. CBT might last only 10 to 20 sessions, which makes for a very focused approach in using these techniques and strategies. Homework is often assigned and treatment plans are followed with careful consideration and devotion.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is aimed to help a client reach the point where they can deal with the problem or situation on their own, a sort of “do it myself” outcome. The client is the one who holds the responsibility of determining if or when progress is made. The client not only talks about their thoughts and feelings with the therapist, they also must follow through with completing the homework, activities or practices. The client also decides whether or not they are going to apply those practices in daily life. The therapist is there as a guide to direct interactions between knowledge gained from CBT and usage in the client’s real-life situations. Ultimately, it comes down to the client’s willingness to pursue these changes in their life.

During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is important for the client to be open and honest, not just to the therapist but also to those who are directly involved in their life. This may cause some discomfort at first, but it enables the client to have a better grasp on the relationships that might be involved with the problem they are facing. It is also very important for the client to continue following the treatment plan that they and the therapist set up. There may be times that the therapy sessions don’t seem to be showing progress or that it all doesn’t seem worth it. This mainly happens when the client expects to see instant results. As you take part in therapy, it is good to keep in mind that any form of therapy is a process.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. Many people will be celebrating with loved ones, and many more will be thinking about what changes they want to bring to their lives. Among all the chitchat and social media posts about new exciting decisions and resolutions, pain and fear might also dwell, as well. Unfortunately, problems can’t just be wished away. I know of at least eight therapists in the Walla Walla Valley who use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and many more therapists who are trained to help bring recovery into a person’s life. Do not be fearful of seeking help. If you want to pursue recovery in the course of your life, do it now.

Shelby Paulsen is the director of The Rising Sun Clubhouse, and can be reached by email at shelbyrpaulsen@gmail.com.

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