When deciding the best therapeutic intervention for your child, what type of treatment approach do you choose? Despite your willingness to try out mental health treatment, be cautious as not all service providers practice the same as they operate under different prisms of thought and philosophy. You may have received a recommendation for a cognitive behavioral approach for symptom reduction and have no clue how this differentiates from other modes of treatment.
Here are the basic hallmarks of CBT:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment approach that calls attention to the interrelation of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If a person is experiencing negative thinking, such as “I am dumb,” they will have negative feelings and behaviors in alignment with this negative wave of thinking. Thoughts such as “I am dumb,” or “I am worthless” precipitate feelings of sadness or frustration and facilitate negative behaviors that continue to fulfill these negative internal beliefs (i.e not trying their hardest in class because they don’t feel smart anyways). On the contrary, if a person experiences positive thinking such as “I am smart” or “I am capable,” their feelings and behaviors will be positive in nature.
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to assist the client in recognizing their maladaptive thought patterns and then debunk the irrational core beliefs that are facilitating negative behaviors and feelings. The therapist challenges the evidence that the client has to support the belief that they are “not smart” and then supplements the client with more rational, supportive self-talk to replace their typical, negative feedback. For example, if a client feels that they are “not smart” because they failed a math test, the therapist would help the client see that this was one test, it does not change their level of smartness, they have other strengths that prove their level of intelligence, and that this was only one test and they have succeeded on the majority of other tests. Then the client can filter their negative thinking with more balanced, rational thinking to change the course of feeling and behaving.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works well with a variety of symptom presentations and mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, and behavioral challenges. CBT-trained therapists are interactive, solution-focused, and work with the client on solving the problems of most relevance. The therapist trains the client to recognize maladaptive/negative thought patterns and then to replace negative thinking with positive, coping self-talk to reverse the cycle of negative thinking, feeling, and behaving.