Even if we are not always aware of it, many of us often think negative, self-defeating thoughts about ourselves and how we interact with others. These self-defeating thoughts may have little truth in them, but because patterns of thinking become automatic, we are unconsciously influenced by distorted visions of ourselves, how we see others, and how others see us. Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT is a way of helping people become aware of how their attitudes and expectations contribute to depression and anxiety.
“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: to rise above little things.”
– John Burroughs
Based on the premise that our emotions and behaviors are determined by how we view and interpret our experiences, in the case of depression, CBT helps people correct negative thought patterns and better adapt to the world around them. As used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, CBT has the person repeatedly confront the feared situation in a gradual way, while at the same time, using learned strategies to cope with the anxiety that may arise from having confronted the feared situation.
Treatment can be done in groups or on a one-to-one basis. Either way, the sessions typically occur once a week for about 15 weeks. During each session, people learn how to focus in on their thoughts, feelings and interactions with others, and explore automatic patterns of thinking and behavior which help perpetuate depressive and anxious symptoms. By breaking the pattern people have built up to avoid the feared situation, people slowly learn to disassociate their fears from specific situations.
The focus of CBT is on the here-and-now – not on the past, as it is in other forms of psychotherapy. With an improved understanding of how our thoughts and behaviors can sabotage our chances of feeling happy and fulfilled, CBT helps prevent depressive symptoms from recurring – and gives us new ways of trying things out to help bring about a more positive mood.