Neurobehavioral Medicine Consultants
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The term psychotherapy refers to counseling provided by a psychotherapist, psychologist or psychiatrist to a client or patient, with the purpose of helping the client overcome a psychological problem. The formal practice of psychotherapy began, for all practical purposes, with Sigmund Freud in Europe, although even before Freud other medical practitioners had begun to develop theories and treatments for various specific psychopathologies. Freud's system of psychoanalysis is still used by some practitioners today, along with variants developed by people such as Carl Jung. Now, a century after Freud published his initial theories, hundreds of additional psychotherapy techniques have been developed.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Cognitive behavioral therapy, often called CBT, refers to a set of psychotherapeutic techniques which share certain basic characteristics. These therapies are based on a model of emotional response which states that feelings and behaviors result from thoughts rather than as a direct response to situations or events. If a person can change the way he or she thinks about a type of situation or occurrence, then new thought patterns can be developed to allow the person to feel and act better even if the situation itself has not changed. Consequently, new response patterns resulting in better feelings and behaviors can replace the old ones.

Initially in a course of CBT, the therapist will help the client define a set of goals for the therapy. Once these have been set, the therapist works with the client to reach these goals by changing the way the patient evaluates situations and responds to them. The process focuses on teaching the client more rational approaches to situations and helping the client to develop the tools and techniques for dealing constructively with similar situations in the future by him or herself. A tenet central to CBT is that thoughts about a situation do not necessarily correspond accurately to the actual situation, and should not be accepted as fact but instead reexamined and modified to correspond more closely to reality.

A course of CBT is time-limited and relatively brief compared to some other techniques of psychotherapy. CBT requires active participation on the part of the client. The therapist may assign homework, which might include reading assignments and the practicing of new techniques. CBT has been demonstrated to result in long-term benefits to the client. It helps people understand their reactions to situations and gives them the tools to maintain the improvements that they achieve during the course of the therapy.

Red Poppy Field, Monet

CBT has been shown to be highly effective in treating a number of specific psychological disorders, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and chronic fatigue syndrome. It has consistently been demonstrated to be as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of depression, although it may be even more effective when used in conjunction with medication. Its effectiveness has also been demonstrated in dealing with personality disorders, eating disorders, anger management, substance abuse, panic disorder and phobias. In addition, evidence supports its use in the treatment of some psychoses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

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