CBT is a form of brief therapy that helps people become aware of how their thoughts and beliefs influence unwanted behavior. The premise of CBT is that most of our thoughts and emotions are the result of how we think, or what we believe about ourselves and others. Sometimes these thoughts and beliefs turn into “thinking errors” or “cognitive distortions” and become the basis of our distress and unwanted behaviors. These “thinking errors” are categorized into labels such as “Black and White Thinking”, “Jumping to Conclusions”, and “Overgeneralization”.
According to this model, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression can be caused by the way a person interprets his reality. For example, a person with low self-esteem may carry the belief that no one likes him or her (“Overgeneralization”), thus causing the person to avoid social situations. Over time, this decision to isolate may lead the person into a depressed state. Once the individual understands how these faulty beliefs affect their behavior and limit choice, he or she begins to learn strategies to overcome these thoughts, and then practices new behaviors to create positive change. In CBT, this process is called “cognitive restructuring”.
Research has proven CBT to be helpful in treating anxiety and phobias, depression, and relationship difficulties. Because it approaches the client’s problem via highly specific goals, it is typically considered a short-term method of treatment.