Cognitive-behavioral therapy – an explanation of the approach from Dr. Hayden Finch
What is a cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approach? How does a cognitive-behavioral therapy session look like? What is the difference between CBT and other types of psychotherapy? For who could it be helpful? Today Dr. Hayden Finch, an experienced psychologist who supports a lot of people on their inner journeys, is answering all those questions!
So what is a cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approach?
According to Dr. Hayden Finch cognitive-behavioral therapy is an evidence-based treatment approach that has been proven to treat a variety of mental health conditions ranging from depression to anxiety to bipolar disorder and even psychotic disorders. It’s based on the idea that the way we think and the way we act affects the way we feel.
Here’s an example: You see someone you know at the grocery store and wave but they don’t respond. If you think, “Oh no, she totally ignored me. I must have done something to make her mad,” then you’ll feel worried, cautious, and maybe insecure. As a result, you might avoid her in the future and the problem will never get resolved. And now take the same example but a different thought process. If she doesn’t respond to your greeting, you think “Oh, she must have been distracted by the produce and just didn’t see me,” then you’ll feel unconcerned and you might choose to just continue with your shopping or even go up to her and get her attention.
Why is it so essential?
In any isolated situation, it might not make much of a difference, but if these patterns continue over months and years, the assumptions our brains make can really have a negative impact on the emotions we’re feeling all the time and how we respond to those emotions. If my brain is consistently assuming people are mad at me, that I’m making mistakes, or that things are going to turn out badly, I’m going to consistently feel depressed, anxious, and inadequate and get discouraged and stuck. But if my brain can accurately examine evidence in my life and let me know what’s not going so well and what is going well, then I will have a variety of feelings that will help me make productive changes in my life.
For who cognitive-behavioral therapy could be helpful?
CBT is all about helping your brain interpret information in the most accurate way and correct for inaccurate information processing that occurs when mental health conditions develop. It’s been proven to be effective for children, adolescents, and adults dealing with just about every mental health condition (for real, it’s that good).
What is the difference between CBT and other types of psychotherapy?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy tends to be much more structured than other types of therapy. Often, you’ll have practice assignments between sessions, such as worksheets to practice examining your thinking or activities to practice changing your behavior.
An example of a practice assignment might be to write down your thoughts, feelings, and actions about a situation that happened during the week. Or another practice assignment might be to try meditating a few times before the next session. Or have a tough conversation with a friend. Or replace alcohol with water a couple of times. The practice assignments are tailored based on whatever the person is trying to change about their life, so it can be anything at all that would take them closer to meeting that goal. In session, you’ll discuss how those practice assignments went and what your next practice assignment might be.
Other types of therapy tend to be more exploratory and talk-based. In other words, people will talk to their therapists, and their therapists will help them build insight into patterns in their thinking or lives. The idea is that once we understand what’s happening in our heads and in our lives, we’re better able to make necessary changes.