About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness

The term "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)" is a general term for a classification of therapies that focus on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. There are several approaches to cognitive-behavioral therapy, including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Tharapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Dialectic Behavior Therapy and others.

Scientific studies of CBT have demonstrated its usefulness for a wide variety issues especially mood disorders, anxiety disorders and trauma, but also personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, sleep disorders and even psychotic disorders. Studies have shown that CBT actually changes brain activity in people who receive this treatment, suggesting that the brain is actually improving its functioning as a result of engaging in this form of therapy.

CBT therapy can help us identify thinking patterns that might have been passed on to us by our parents, culture and other significant people or events in our life and explore their impact on our daily life and emotions that we experience. More importantly though, CBT offers tools to modify beliefs that might be false or expectations that might be unrealistic and develop a rational and realistic perception of ourselves and others around us.

A person who is depressed may have the belief, "I can't do anything right," and a person with panic disorder may have the belief, "I am in danger." While the person in distress likely believes these to be ultimate truths, with a therapist’s help the individual is encouraged to challenge these beliefs. Part of this process involves viewing such negative beliefs as hypotheses rather than facts and to test out such beliefs by “running experiments.” Furthermore, people who are participating in CBT are encouraged to monitor thoughts that pop into their minds (called "automatic thoughts"). This allows clients and their therapist to search for patterns in their thinking that can cause them to have negative thoughts which can lead to unpleasant feelings and self-destructive behaviors. Once patterns are identified new desired ways of coping with stressful situations are developed and clients are encouraged to test these new skills in real life.

What about mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we develop an ability to observe our thoughts and feelings and become aware of what their sources are. You are able to identify your feelings before they escalate and have a greater freedom and flexibility to make choices that support our goals and values. Only when we are mindful of our feelings, reactions and thoughts can we effectively modify them and consequently improve our emotional well-being and develop new coping skills and greater effectiveness in situations that might have overwhelmed us before therapy.

If you have any questions about these approaches please don't hesitate to ask.