Dr. Aaron Beck

Dr. Beck

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions.  By looking at negative thought patterns, people work to challenge those beliefs.  By doing so, an individual can change negative thoughts to improve functioning and coping.  It sees it’s origins in the work of Dr. Aaron Beck, a psychiatrist who developed the theory in the 1960’s. 

As mentioned above, the major tenant of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the connection between thoughts, emotion, and actions.  Essentially, as humans we tend to be led by emotion.  For the most part, if we “feel” like doing something, we do it.  If we do not, then we don’t.  This frame of thinking affects all of us, even more so when dealing with depression or anxiety.  An example of negative thought process is as follows:  

"I don’t feel like getting out of my house today."

When that feeling happens, the likely thought is “I’m not getting out of my house today.” 

The action to follow would be to isolate. 

This cycle serves to continue a negative spiral and maintain depressed mood.  When one does not fight it, depression worsens.  A person starts to feel increasingly bad for giving in to the cycle.  CBT works to break that cycle at the thought and action stage.  If one can combat the thought and say “even though I don’t feel like doing something, I’m going to," then the action can follow.  It is wise to work in small goals, so as to facilitate success.  A trained therapist will work with an individual to set daily goals, problem solve to overcome obstacles, and maintain levels of support.

Working outside of the therapist office is a big part of treatment with this form of therapy.  People have to monitor thoughts and emotions, and keep written track of them.  Journals are used frequently.  A patient and their therapist can then look for patterns in thinking that are causing them to have negative thoughts. 

CBT has use in mild to moderate depression, sometimes showing results with the same efficacy as medication therapy.  It can also be helpful in treating anxiety or panic.  This therapy has gained significant popularity over the past two decades.  This is due to the practical nature of therapy, and the relatively short amount of treatment time needed.  For better or worse, many medical services are largely dictated by insurance companies.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy  has become a positive fit in that paradigm.

Drawbacks of treatment include lower positive results in Major Depressive Disorders.  It should be noted that when medication treatment is added, statistics improve.  This form of therapy involves a lot of work outside the office, and requires a person to pay close attention to their thoughts.  For these reasons, some people have trouble following through.