Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that has been extensively tested scientifically and found to be effective in hundreds of clinical trials for various disorders.
In contrast to other forms of therapy, cognitive therapy is usually more focused on the present, more time-limited, and more problem-solving oriented.
CBT is one of the most researched types of therapy, which is why it is often referred to as an “evidence-based” treatment.
CBT is based on the cognitive model: the way we perceive situations influences how we feel and behave. So it is not a situation that directly affects how people feel, but rather their thoughts in that situation.
While in distress, people might frequently harbor perspectives that are often inaccurate, and their thoughts might be unrealistic.
CBT teaches people to identify their erroneous thoughts and evaluate how realistic the thoughts are.
Then they learn to change distorted thinking. The emphasis is also consistently on solving problems and initiating behavioral change.
Metacognition, thinking about thinking, is a key element of CBT. This continual process of examining maladaptive thoughts and belief systems leads to emotional recovery and behavioral change.
Why is metacognition important? Because metacognition involves self-regulation (behavior and emotions), reflection upon one’s strengths, weaknesses, and it is a central component of emotional intelligence.
In 2003, Antonia Semerari and his colleagues published an article that identified metacognition as a structure that is composed of various factors:
- Self-reflectivity: the ability to think about one’s own thoughts and emotions;
- Understanding the other’s mind: the ability to think about the thoughts and emotions of others;
- Decentration: the ability to understand that you are not the center of the world, and people’s lives continue when you are not around;
- Mastery: One’s ability to use the three aspects above to define psychological problems and adequately deal with them.
What about medication?
Many people are treated without medication at all. Some disorders, however, respond better to a combination of medication and cognitive therapy.
If you are on medication, or would like to be on medication, you might want to discuss with your therapist whether you should have a psychiatric consultation with a specialist, such as a psychiatrist.
CBT is ideal for people who are willing and able to be introspective, for people who are looking for a short-term treatment, and those who prefer not to go the medication route.
Kelly Nicholson, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with Psychological and Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.