Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT, is a commonly used therapeutic or psychological approach for guiding the process of understanding, challenging, and treating disorders such as anxiety or depression. CBT is an evidence based practice that has been demonstrated to be effective for treating a variety of mental health presentations both in research and clinical settings. Here are a few of the main components often involved with this type of therapy!
Psycho-education: Psycho-education is often the first step in CBT as it helps set the foundation for what the work will look like. Education involves learning about both CBT and the symptoms or disorder that you are seeking support for. This process helps create understanding, informed decision making and consent, and promotes collaboration between the clinician and the client.
Exposure: Exposure is essentially the process of facing your fears instead of avoiding them. Exposure can be in real life or in your imagination. Exposure work varies greatly and will be dependent on the client, clinician, coping skills, abilities, and other individual factors.
Thought Work: Thoughts or cognitions are right in the name- they are the “C” in CBT. Learning to identify, challenge, and change negative (unhelpful) cognitions to positive (helpful) ones is a big part of managing your symptoms. As you learn more about your thoughts, you will start connecting your them to your behaviours. This is the “B” in CBT. Exploring how your beliefs impact the way you behave or respond to things can be a powerful tool in your journey. You might also learn about cognitive distortions or negative thoughts patterns that trap your mind into thinking in unhelpful ways. You might also explore where your negative thoughts come from, how they shape your worldview, and how they might impact your problem solving.
While these three themes are often found in CBT, a couple of other components are also likely to be involved in your counselling process.
Emotions/Emotional Regulation: Exploring your emotions and emotional responses to things (and their sources/causes), learning coping skills for regulating your emotions, and understanding how your emotions connect to your thoughts and behaviours is another area often included in therapy. For children and youth, learning about emotions usually starts with the basics such as naming or identifying the six main emotions (happy, sad, angry, fear, surprise, disgust), acknowledging feelings, and then learning to manage them when they get too big!
Physical Symptoms: Your mind and body function together, so becoming aware of how physical symptoms (or body clues) might be connected to your psychological health can be a great source of knowledge and power for you as you work through on your mental wellbeing.
Written by Registered Psychologist with Wildflowers, Megan Adams Lebell