“Therapy” is a useful tool, but it’s also a vague umbrella term that many practices exist under. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, can help you stop damaging or negative behaviors learned in your past. CBT is suitable for folks with a range of mental health problems and can help you get rid of that self-defeating voice in your head that sometimes won’t go away. In other words, it really shines a light on the power of positive thinking. It can help with depression, PTSD, OCD, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions. It can also help you cope with a breakup, stress, or low self-esteem, making it a versatile therapy.
There are plenty of cognitive behavioral therapy practices that you can actually complete on your own, and they’re a great way to start getting in control of your mental health. They’re also the perfect “in-between” step to prime you for an in-person therapist. Start self-educating with this helpful breakdown; you can even start practicing some of these tactics on your own.
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
CBT explores how certain thoughts and emotions affect our actions. Essentially, the way we feel and think about something can drastically affect our actions. After identifying these patterns, we learn how to enact different coping techniques.
A great example is experiencing burnout at work; when we’re under more stress than usual, we might make choices or handle situations differently than we normally would. But according to CBT, we can change those patterns.
Based on the concepts of CBT, many of our issues stem from unhelpful ways of thinking as well as learned behavior patterns. These issues can be improved with the right coping mechanisms and management.
The best CBT techniques
Reworking your brain’s patterns sounds easier than it is, but with the help of a therapist (or online courses), you’ll most likely experience the following:
- Seeing how inaccurate thinking has a negative impact
- Finding out how to problem-solve differently
- Improving confidence and self-worth
- Figuring out how to deal with your fears and challenges
- Using calming techniques and role play when challenges arise
More specific cognitive behavioral therapy techniques include “SMART goals,” or measurable goals that can be achieved in a specific and realistic way. Journaling is also a popular CBT technique – a therapist may suggest that you write down negative thoughts. Then, write down positive ones that can replace them. Positive self-talk is also key and can help you speak to yourself with more compassion rather than sparking your inner critic.
Beyond journaling and mental exercises, you can do some cognitive behavioral techniques in the real world. These include:
- Situation Exposure: While this is done out in the real world, it starts on paper: first, list scenarios that cause you distress. Order them by how stressed out they make you feel. Then, slowly start exposing yourself to these situations until those triggering negative feelings are reduced. Otherwise known as exposure therapy, this sounds scary at first but can help desensitize and reduce those negative associations.
- Positive activities: this method is pretty straightforward and involves scheduling a rewarding daily activity. This can positively impact your mood and increase the positive energy you invite into your life. Maybe it’s buying yourself a bouquet of flowers, watching your favorite movie or cooking a meal that you love.
Whether you’re going on your CBT journey alone or with a professional therapist, know that homework is part of the process. When you put in the work, this method can be seriously effective. With moderately short sessions, faster results and long-term benefits, CBT is often regarded as one of the more affordable forms of therapy that provides you with life-long tools to better yourself.