Cognitive Behavioural Therapy — What It Is & How To Apply It

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps in identifying and changing these distorted thought patterns by replacing them with more logical ones, providing the space for more objectivity.

There are so many methods for treating mental disorders, however most of these methods are still ridiculously unaffordable. Which is quite unfortunate, because depression is one of the most debilitating diseases on the planet today.

If treatments like TMS, hypnosis, and DBT were more affordable, I would make getting treatment my full time occupation. For now though, I need to take matters into my own hands in some cases, and I’ve done just that with a treatment called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT.

There are many techniques that you can use when you apply CBT, and one of the most interesting things I’ve learned so far is that our negative emotions and moods result from these distortions below.

The 10 cognitive distortions include;

1) All or nothing thinking — seeing things in black or white. If your performance falls short of perfect, you are a total failure.

2) overgeneralising — seeing a single negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat.

3) mental filtering — you pick out a single negative event that you dwell on exclusively, leading to a total vision of darkness.

4) disqualifying the positives — you reject the positives, insisting that they don’t count.

5) jumping to conclusions — making negative interpretations despite the lack of evidence

6) magnification or minimisation — exaggerate the importance of things, or shrink things, denying their importance.

7) emotional reasoning — assume your negative emotions reflect true reality.

8) should statements — you punish yourself with should or shouldn’t statements as a way to motivate yourself to do something.

9) Labelling and Mislabelling — instead of describing a negative error, you attach a negative label to yourself “I lost, so I am a loser”

10) Personalisation — you see yourself as the cause of a negative external event that you were not responsible for.

A lot of therapists and psychologists use the CBT technique to help their patients from these cognitve distortions that can contribute to low mood and even mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.So, whats a simple way of applying this technique?

First, identify the thought that has contributed to your negative emotion or mood. You might have made an error at work, or failed a class. You start to think, “damn, I’m a failure. I can never get anything right”.

Once you have identified the negative thought, identify what type of cognitive distortion it is from the list of 10 above. This thought can apply to multiple types of distortion.

Then, you formulate rational responses that counter your argument for being a “failure”, and “not being able to get anything right”. These rational responses must be things that you actually find true, such as, “well, I wouldn’t say I can’t get anything right. I’ve done a lot of things right, like…..” or, “I’m not a failure, because I wouldn’t be here if I was”.

Again, ensure that you truly find rationale in these responses back to your negative thoughts, because if you don’t believe in them then they won’t work.

Do this everyday for 15 minutes. Studies suggest that people who applied these techniques everyday for a period of 3 months saw drastic decreases in their levels of anxiety and depression and improved levels of self esteem.

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