Exploring Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Techniques
Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are a common form of talk therapy. This therapy, also known as CBT, is a short-term treatment that takes weeks or months to show results.
CBT differs from other types of therapy in that it focuses on coping with current problems.1 The past is considered, but it’s not the primary focus.
There are numerous techniques used with CBT, some of which we’re sharing here to try out on your own.
5 Beginner-Friendly CBT Techniques
The key principle is that your thought patterns affect your emotions, influencing your behaviors. CBT connects the dots between negative thoughts and negative feelings and actions. Once you’re aware of them, you can positively reframe your thoughts and produce more positive emotions and healthy behaviors.
The techniques used in CBT can vary according to the condition you’re seeking to treat and your goals.2
CBT is most effective when done under the guidance of a qualified therapist and includes:
- Identifying problems and issues you experience regularly
- Recognizing unproductive thought patterns and behaviors and how they impact your life
- Identifying negative thinking and reshaping or restructuring it in a way that changes your emotions
- Learning healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms and putting them into practice
Once your therapist knows more about the issues you’re seeking help for and your personal goals, they’ll choose the best CBT strategies to address them.
Here are some common techniques that you may wish to explore on your own or with your therapist:
1. Cognitive Restructuring or Reframing
This technique focuses on negative thought patterns and restructuring them.3 For example, if you always think the worst of any situation, generalize or dwell on minor details, it can affect how you behave or become self-fulfilling.
In CBT, your thought process is examined in different situations to highlight negative patterns and make you aware. Once you’re aware, you can focus on reframing those thoughts to be healthier and more productive.
2. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a technique often used to confront irrational fears or phobias.4 You’re slowly exposed to the things that provoke fear while learning how to cope with them. Over time, you can become less afraid and more confident in the face of your fear.
The exposure isn’t extreme – it’s done in small increments to teach you coping mechanisms slowly.
For example, if you fear public speaking, you would give a short speech in front of a small audience, gradually increasing the length of the speech and size of the audience.
3. Activity Scheduling
If you have fear or anxiety about specific activities, getting them done can relieve the burden. Once you decide to complete the activity, you’re more likely to follow through.
Activity scheduling can help you develop healthy habits and teach yourself to overcome fear or anxiety caused by certain activities.5
4. Guided Discovery
Guided discovery is typically conducted with a therapist. In this situation, the therapist acquaints themselves with your viewpoint, then asks questions to challenge your thought patterns and beliefs.6 You’ll be expected to provide evidence to support your assumptions and beliefs and evidence that refute them.
During this process, you can broaden your thinking and see things from other perspectives. Once you have a comprehensive view of the situation, you can choose the most effective and beneficial path.
5. Behavioral Experiments
Behavioral experiments can be used to cope with anxiety disorders that involve catastrophic thinking.7 This is when someone assumes the worst-case scenario or believes situations to be worse than they actually are.
For example, if you were in a car accident, you may experience anxiety getting back into a car, driving on your own, or driving near the site of the accident. You assume that another accident will occur, and the anxiety or thoughts of an accident become overwhelming.
With behavioral experiments, before embarking on an activity or task that causes anxiety, you try to predict what will happen. Then, you discuss or note whether the prediction came true.
As you make more and more predictions, you’ll see that the catastrophe you fear isn’t likely to happen. Typically, this begins with low-anxiety tasks and builds up to the overwhelming tasks and activities.
Does CBT Have Risks?
CBT is generally safe, especially when performed with a qualified professional. There are some things to consider, however.
Confronting problems isn’t easy, and some people may find it overwhelming at first. Some CBT techniques can increase stress and anxiety while learning to cope, such as exposure therapy.
CBT requires a commitment and desire to work through problems and learn coping mechanisms during sessions and once the therapy is complete. You must follow through for it to be successful.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Techniques at Healing Foundations Center
CBT has several techniques to help you reach your mental health goals. The best way to find success with this treatment is with the guidance of a qualified therapist, such as the therapists at Healing Foundations Center. If you’re interested in CBT, contact us today to learn more!