Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mental Health Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychotherapy. A patient partakes in a set number of structured talk therapy sessions with a therapist. Therapists assist patients to recognize harmful or destructive thought processes brought about by anxiety disorders and give them tools to respond or dismiss them effectively.

CBT can treat mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can be used in isolation or to complement other therapies. The patient doesn’t need to have a mental health disorder to use CBT. CBT can be effective in managing many stressful life situations.
Research has shown that CBT combined with medication leads to an improved quality of life for individuals undergoing mental illness treatment.

What does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Involve

A patient referred to a CBT professional will attend one-on-one sessions or participate in group therapy with family members or fellow sufferers. 

The demand for online therapy is skyrocketing for patients who live remotely or are unable to attend sessions physically.

The process of CBT involves a patient: 

  • Learning about their mental health condition 
  • Learning a variety of techniques, including relaxation, stress management, coping resilience, and assertiveness.

The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT successfully treats a wide variety of mental health illnesses. This form of psychotherapy can identify and focus on specific challenges. Because of this, treatment is not prolonged and can be limited to a few well-structured sessions.

There are two categories in the mental health spectrum covered by cognitive behavioral therapy. These are emotional issues and diagnosed mental illnesses.

Emotional issues effectively treated by CBT include the following:

  • Grief or loss 
  • Managing symptoms of mental illness
  • Where medication is unsuitable or failing to make a difference
  • Post physical illness emotional support
  • Learning how to deal with anxiety during stressful situations
  • Prevention of relapse of mental illness symptoms
  • Relationship conflict resolution and communication 
  • Overcoming the trauma of physical violence or psychological abuse
  • Managing chronic pain

Clinically diagnosed mental health illnesses that respond positively to CBT are:

  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Phobias
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Substance abused
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Sex addiction

The above emotional and mental health illnesses may respond solely to CBT. However, a combination of medication and CBT may prove more effective. Health care professionals will prescribe the best mental health treatment available, follow up with assessments, review, and continuously adjust a patient’s progress.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Safe?

Generally, cognitive behavioral therapy is not risky. However, it is a therapy that does not suit everyone, and it is wise to keep the following in mind:

A patient might find it stressful to discuss the problems that need treatment. Therapists will stop treatment if the patient’s anxiety becomes intense and adapt the therapy accordingly.  

Similarly, exposure therapy, a form of CBT, might elevate anxiety in a patient.

Understanding that treatment takes time, a patient can mitigate the above risks with perseverance. CBT should be viewed as a lifestyle change and is helpful to the individual beyond their prescribed CBT therapy.

Preparing for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

An individual may self-prescribe CBT; alternatively, they might have a doctor’s referral to a psychotherapist for mental health treatment. Either way, preparation for CBT may look like the following:

Finding the right therapist

Generally, therapist referrals come from a health care provider, insurance company, recommended by a friend, or a trusted source who regularly recommends mental health treatment. 

Large firms may have in-house counselors. Schools and other educational institutions usually have access to therapists. The internet is also a good source of CBT professionals close to the patient. 

Make a list

Having identified or been referred to a CBT program, making a list of why treatment is needed is an excellent way to focus the patient’s mind on addressing issues. If this is difficult, the therapist will assist the patient with this in the first session.

Be aware of the cost

There are medical insurance companies that will cover the costs of cognitive behavioral therapy. Some partially cover or not at all. Establish the costs upfront and negotiate a payment plan if necessary. By doing this, the patient can focus on the treatment and not worry about their finances.

Check the qualifications of the therapist

A psychotherapist is a broad title given to professionals who use talk therapy to treat individuals or groups for various emotional problems or mental illnesses. Depending on their specialty, a psychotherapist may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor.

It is wise to check the psychotherapist’s background and qualifications.

Qualification or certification

Accredited practitioners will be doctors who are qualified to offer treatment for mental illness or psychological issues. A license is issued, and prospective patients can request to see a copy.

Education and background

A trained psychotherapist will have a medical degree specializing in psychology for their master’s degree. Doctors specializing in psychiatry may provide CBT and prescribe medication if necessary.

Area of Expertise

An individual with a specific mental illness or emotional issue should establish whether the prescribed professional has the expertise and experience suited to their needs.

Patient reviews

Personal recommendations by other patients with similar conditions are excellent referrals.

Finding the right therapist who can relate and empathize with the patient is essential for the success of the therapy.

What to expect at the first CBT session

The first cognitive behavioral therapy session is an opportunity for both the individual and the therapist to explore the need for treatment.

The therapist will note background information and confirm the reason for the patient’s referral. The individual will use this session to establish whether they like the therapist and can foresee a productive outcome from further sessions.    

A well-suited therapist will provide a patient with the following details:

  • The goals they hope to achieve
  • The type of treatment available from them
  • The number and length of sessions
  • What to expect from each session
  • What the patient’s long term view might be after therapy

The first session can be stressful, overwhelming, and daunting for individuals suffering from emotional issues or mental illness. An effective therapist will guide the patient through these feelings and give reassurance so that the patient feels secure and optimistic about the treatment.

If this is not the case, an individual should seek an alternative. The therapist should refer the patient to someone more qualified. It is only through a good match that mental health treatment will be successful.

CBT sessions comprise of the following steps.

Identify the problem

A therapist will assist the individual in identifying the issues and objectives to address. Medical illnesses, interpersonal problems, grief, or signs of a mental disorder are examples of problems.

Analyzing thoughts

Having established the patient’s problems, the therapist will analyze the thoughts they might have surrounding these problems and dissect the individual’s interpretation, self-talk, and beliefs. The therapist may encourage their patient to keep a journal to follow their thoughts to alleviate anxiety disorders.

Recognize patterns

A therapist will start to recognize thought and behavior patterns contributing to the patient’s problem. The individual will be made aware of these patterns and pay attention to triggering thoughts and actions in different situations.

Reshaping thoughts

By reshaping thoughts, the therapist will present an alternate view of a situation to a patient to reshape their interpretation of an event. As complex and challenging as this step may be, reshaping might undo the cause of the problem.  

The practice of reshaping equips an individual to consider alternatives before habits form.

How long should Cognitive Behavior Therapy last?

CBT is not intended to be a long-term therapy. Usually, five to twenty sessions should suffice. However, a therapist will guide the patient in this respect.

The time frame for mental health treatments will depend on the following:

  • The type of disorder
  • The seriousness of the situation
  • The length of time the individual has suffered
  • The speed of progress
  • The support system the individual has outside of therapy.

Getting the most out of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Having embarked on a journey to treat an emotion or illness with cognitive behavioral therapy, getting the most out of therapy is dependant on these factors:

Partnering with a therapist: A patient who views their therapist as a partner will allow barriers to fall, thereby reducing the vulnerability felt on their own. The patient and the therapist can set goals and progress reviewed. 

Being honest: The success of CBT depends on an individual’s honesty. The individual that can open up about the source of their angst will derive the most from CBT. The individual who is honest about not being able to talk about their problems will eventually open up with the help of a good therapist. 

Commitment to the plan: combining the former two points and committing to the program will increase the chances of overcoming mental health illness or emotional issues. 

Give it time: healing takes time. Commitment, hard work, and patience are needed for CBT to succeed. The process of deconstructing the situation may be painful. The reconstruction process might take time but is worth enduring for the planned result.

Continuous communication with the therapist will ensure the recovery plan is kept on track.
Do any homework prescribed: a CBT therapist may prescribe tasks between sessions such as writing a journal or doing certain activities. Doing these tasks will help the patient achieve a successful outcome.

Get Help for Mental Illness with CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a well-established, highly effective form of psychotherapy. Using the different techniques available, a therapist will find the best strategy to address a patient’s needs. 
At Psyclarity Health, a world-class mental health facility in San Diego, CBT and various other forms of therapy are available to treat any and all mental illnesses. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help you.