What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
CBT is the most widely used evidenced-based practice for improving mental health. This form of therapy focuses on developing personalized strategies that solve long-standing problems and change unproductive patterns in your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
The therapist's role is to assist you in finding and practicing the right strategies for you. Your goal is to use these strategies to decrease anxiety and stress—and increase mental clarity and productivity.
The cognitive part of CBT investigates unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that come up in stressful situations. With your therapist, you will explore these thoughts which are often rooted in false assumptions called cognitive distortions (e.g., jumping to conclusions, overgeneralizing, assuming the worst). Your therapist will teach you how to relate differently to your thoughts, to not believe them blindly, and to redefine a negative situation by teaching you to a step back and evaluate it from a new perspective.
The behavioral part looks at your everyday actions, how your mood affects them, and how these actions impact your life. Understanding the root of your anxiety or depression can be tremendously helpful, but this is only one step to changing the way you live your life. Are there activities that you avoid because they cause anxiety? Do certain activities change your mood? What would the life you want to live actually look like? Your therapist will explore these questions with you and help you build new habits that support your goals.
What this looks like in therapy:
You make breakthroughs in therapy when you and your therapist discover patterns between what you are doing, thinking, and feeling. Therapists uncover patterns by looking at data.
The data your therapist needs to know are thoughts, feelings, and actions that you experience every day. They'll ask you to track data in your Kip app–for example, a record of your thoughts, to rate your anxiety and mood daily, and to take note of what types of activities trigger anxiety. Your therapist will identify issues to work on by evaluating the data you share on Kip with the information you share with them in session.
Then your therapist will start designing a treatment plan for you. You can think of a treatment plan as a series of small experiments that share even more data with your therapist. There are hundreds of CBT tools, strategies, and skills that you can learn to think differently and build better behaviors–the next step of therapy is finding the ones that work best for you.
In sessions, your therapist will teach you a tool such as a mindfulness exercise. Between sessions, you'll practice using the tool and see if it works for you. Does it achieve the intended goal (e.g., reducing anxiety in the moment)? Is it something you like doing and can fit into your current habits or lifestyle? If yes, then you've just discovered a powerful tool for your mind. If no, then your therapist will iterate your treatment plan and give you new tools to try.
You will leave therapy with new knowledge about yourself and tools that help you uncover insights into how your mind works and how to make it work better.