Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) describes a group of psychotherapeutic treatments that have been shown to be effective in treating many emotional and behavioral disorders in children, teens, and adults, both in individual and group therapy. These treatments have been developed based on behavioral and cognitive research studies. CBT is a goal oriented approach to therapy with time limitations.
CBT focuses on addressing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are causing a person problems. All these elements are interrelated and affect one another. How one thinks affects how one feels and that affects how one behaves, etc. For example, if an adult is struggling with feeling defeated or low, it might be because he or she is thinking “I can’t do anything right,” or “things never work out for me,” or having other thoughts about what he or she should be doing, but is not. The resulting behavior may be inactivity, change in sleep habits, and withdrawal from friends. Treatment might include helping the client engage in healthy activities (small steps at a time) and changing thinking patterns, by looking at whether positive events or interpretations are minimized and negatives maximized, and reversing that.
Another example: If a child feels anxious and worries about separating from a parent, he or she might be thinking “What if someone will come after me and hurt me?” or, “What if something bad happens to my parent?” or other “What if’s.” This might also be accompanied by stomach aches, headaches, and/or difficulty breathing. Behaviorally, this might exhibit through avoidance of going anywhere without a parent. Therefore, treatment might include developing coping strategies to deal with the anxiety (restructuring and challenging the thoughts), gradually exposing the child to the fear (by slowly increasing separation from the parent), helping the parent(s) institute a motivational system, teaching relaxation techniques, and giving assignments after each session to practice at home.
CBT focuses on the presenting current challenges and the settings in which they occur. Therapists work in a collaborative manner with adults. When working with children, therapists collaborate with parents, to develop specific goals. Progress is made through work within the sessions and through homework assignments that require practice at home, work and school.
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