In this article I want to explain the basics of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how it can be helpful in your life.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the process of examining your cognitions (thoughts) and how these thoughts affect your feelings and behavior. Firstly automatic thoughts (thoughts which come to our minds automatically, not through the senses) are identified and questioned to see whether or not they are valid. Common cognitive distortions (errors) are identified and replaced with more valid and beneficial thoughts. Then the core beliefs (basic beliefs that we hold true about ourselves) are identified and challenged. Common false beliefs are identified and challenged, these include: it is necessary to be approved of and loved by all people, it is necessary to be competent and successful in everything I attempt and it is possible and necessary to control the actions and affections of other people.
The following is an example of automatic thoughts, cognitive distortions, core beliefs and false beliefs.
Sue’s automatic thought to Rebecca’s lack of comment on her new top was “She doesn’t like it, it doesn’t look good on me”. She has participated in a common cognitive distortion of “mind reading”, concluding that Rebecca was reacting negatively to her, without bothering to check out that this was in fact the truth. If we examine Sue’s thoughts surrounding this event we see that she can not possibly know what Rebecca is thinking and should she have asked Rebecca what she thought of her new top, Rebecca would have told her that it was lovely but she didn’t realize it was new and she thought that Sue had worn it once before when they were at a previous lunch and that is why she didn’t mention it.
Sue’s core belief is that she is not good enough and she is under the false belief that it is necessary to be approved of and loved by all people.
Through identifying Sue’s automatic thought, and identifying the cognitive distortion, it is possible to see how she has automatically assumed her thoughts to be the truth even when they are not. These thoughts are strengthening her core belief that she is not good enough and causing her unnecessary unhappiness. The good news is these thought’s, once identified and disputed can be replaced.
There are a number of common cognitive distortions that people often use. These distortions are usually not the truth but we behave and react towards them as if they are. The purpose and benefit of CBT is to identify these distorted thoughts and challenge them. CBT is beneficial in almost all aspects of life and has been very effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse, enhancing coping skills and moderating extremes in unhelpful thinking.