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Cognitive Therapy or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a collaborative form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. It is based on the scientifically supported assumption that most emotional and behavioral reactions are learned. Therefore, if you are experiencing unwanted feelings and behaviors, it is important to identify the thinking that is causing the feelings and behaviors and to learn how to replace this thinking with thoughts that lead to more desirable reactions. Where psychoanalysis (therapy based on Freudian or psychoanalytic theory) focuses on exploring the client’s childhood looking for trauma that may be related to their current problems, a key focus of cognitive therapy is to help you restructure automatic thoughts and their distortions that underlie psychological distress. Challenging assumptions and inferences and finding rational, realistic and respectful ways to reframe cognitive distortions is a main objective of this type of therapy.
The effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in treating many emotional disorders and dysfunctions has been shown through numerous studies. It is often a preferred treatment for shyness, headaches, panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, loneliness, and procrastination. For example, CBT has been shown to be as effective as drugs in treating both depression and anxiety and better than drugs in avoiding treatment failures and in preventing relapse after the end of treatment.
Initial treatment sessions are typically spent explaining the basic tenets of cognitive-behavioral therapy to the patient and establishing a positive working relationship between therapist and patient. From the early sessions on, clients are asked to work on assignments between sessions. For example, the patient may be asked to keep a journal to help him or her become more aware of their maladaptive thoughts and to show their consequences on behavior. Treatment is relatively short in comparison to some other forms of psychotherapy, usually lasting no longer than 16 weeks. At the termination of treatment, the client should have learned practical and powerful skills that can be applied over a lifetime to reduce discomfort and improve levels of functioning.