Browsing the archives for the cognitive therapy tag.
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What in the World Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Guest posts

Today’s guest post is from Kari Wolfe, whose blog Imperfect Clarity passes on everything she’s learning as she works toward building a writing career, interviews fascinating people, parents her daughter in ways she never expected, and forges her own habits of success.

Recently, Luc has been talking about broken ideas, his term for cognitive distortions. This topic falls under the general category of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which is based on the idea that if you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel.

psychiatrist Dr. Aaron T. Beck, who pioneered cognitive therapy

CBT began in the 1960s and is one alternative to your standard lay-on-the-couch-and-spill-your-thoughts psychoanalysis. For many specific problems, CBT can help you solve those problems in about four to six months of therapy while standard psychoanalysis can take years to reveal roots of problems.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages and, for some situations (and some patients), one can be better than the other. As always, it is up to YOU to decide what method works for you.


What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The main idea behind CBT is your feelings and thoughts need to be in accord with the events as they take place.

As PsychCentral’s introduction to CBT states, “it’s not events themselves that upset us, but the meanings we give them.”

If these meanings do not line up with what really happened, it can cause a cognitive distortion, i.e. Luc’s broken ideas. Cleaning up these broken ideas is one form of CBT.


What is professional treatment like?

Professional treatment usually consists of three main areas:

Structure. CBT sessions are highly structured, focusing on the best use of the time. Since the goal is for the process to eventually become second-nature to the patient, the therapist acts as a guide, helping direct the patient toward his/her goal in the beginning, giving up that role later as the patient learns to guide themselves.

Homework or exercises. As with most therapies, this is an important aspect of CBT. As the therapist and the patient discuss the problem, they talk about what’s going on and the patient receives exercises to do at home. This is where the patient begins to put what he/she is learning into action in his/her own life.

Therapists and patients are on equal levels. The therapist acts like more of a guide than an all-powerful solution-holder.


What kinds of problems can benefit?

According to PsychCentral, CBT can be an effective therapy for the following problems:

anger management
anxiety and panic attacks
child and adolescent problems
chronic fatigue syndrome
chronic pain
drug or alcohol problems
eating problems
general health problems
habits, such as facial tics
mood swings
obsessive-compulsive disorder
post-traumatic stress disorder
sexual and relationship problems
sleep problems

Can it replace medications for these problems? Well, maybe. But that’s between you and your doctor.


Do I have to see a therapist to learn about CBT?

Well, no. Not necessarily. There are a lot of online resources that can help you get started in learning what CBT is.

Wikipedia: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

While you don’t want to necessarily take Wikipedia at its every word, it can be one of the best jumping off points to begin your research. But, take everything with a grain of salt and if you’re just not sure, check the page’s references.

Cognitive Behavioural Self-Help Resources

Lots of information from a UK cognitive therapist, Carol Vivyan.

Luc’s tag on broken ideas (AKA cognitive distortions)

Not to continuously repeat myself, but I have found that Luc’s articles on broken ideas, idea repair, and schema therapy (another alternative therapy that incorporate some CBT ideas) are FANTASTIC places to start. Not only has he explained these topics extremely well, Luc has used a great number of sources on each article as well–dig in however far you want.

CBT has also been adapted for numerous books in the self-help section of the bookstore.

Kari Wolfe is a stay-at-home mother of a very curious three-year-old daughter who happens to be autistic. She is a writer and maintains her own blog, Imperfect Clarity where her focus is becoming the best writer (and person) she can be by living her life to the fullest 🙂


Some Ways to Find Out What’s Really Bothering You

Handling negative emotions

One of the real benefits idea repair has brought me since I started learning about it years ago (under the title of “Rational Emotive-Based Therapy”) is an awareness that my bad moods, when they come, generally can be traced to something. It’s true, sometimes being overtired or not having had a chance to eat (or especially, both) can jostle me over into my least flattering behaviors, but much more often, if I feel bad emotionally, it can be traced to some thought I’m having. For me, it’s usually worrying about something. For instance, I might find myself getting more anxious than really makes any sense over a minor work deadline.

The thing is, when I’m working myself up about something, often I’m signaling myself that there’s a larger, underlying problem. This points to the one limitation I know of about idea repair: idea repair helps a person feel better right away, but sometimes it helps to trace a broken idea to its source before fixing it, because our emotional reactions give us important clues to what will make us happy (or drive us out of our tree with worry or annoyance).

So when I find myself seriously overreacting to a situation, I’ll often try to find out what’s really bothering me first, and once I know that to use idea repair to bring my mood back into balance. Here are some ways to cover that first step: finding out what’s causing the negative emotions, deep down.

Major issues that bother a person usually don’t lurk too far beneath the surface. One of the quickest and most direct ways to get to those issues is to have someone ask you some very straightforward questions, or even (if you don’t mind talking to yourself a little), asking them yourself.

The kinds of questions to ask are very basic, like “So, what’s bothering you today?” or “What are you most concerned about at the moment?” or “If you could have one thing happen today to make you happier, what would it be?”

Continued questions just follow up on the answers. For instance, if a person being interviewed (or self-interviewing) comes up with the statement “The thing that worries me the most is that I don’t think I’m going to have enough money to send my daughter off to college next year,” then the follow-up question might be something like “What would happen then?” or “Why don’t you think you’ll have enough money?”

Another handy kind of question for these situations is “What else?” This is useful when the real problem still seems to be lurking out of sight. “OK, you’re worried about that deadline at work. What else is bugging you these days?”

An interesting side note for writers: this same strategy works well for character and story development. There’s more detail in my free eBook, The Writing Engine: A Practical Guide to Writing Motivation.

It’s true, I recommend journaling for a lot of things: for detecting broken ideasgetting immediate motivation, feedback loops, tackling daunting tasks, and so on. Of course, the reason I recommend it so often is that it’s a very practical technique: writing things down draws thoughts out of our heads that we might not otherwise have pursued, and it helps give these thoughts structure and direction. It also provides a record, should we want to go back in future and remind ourselves of past states of mind.

In effect, journaling works much like interviewing, and can be done question-and-answer style if that format helps. Alternatively, a free flow of thought spurred on by focusing on the negative emotions can get to the same place by a different route.

Talk therapy
If you find that lurking anxieties or frustrations are sabotaging your mood on a regular basis, you may want to consider whether a therapist could help out. Unfortunately, therapy often seems to be thought of as being only for people with serious mental illnesses rather than also for people who are doing fine with their lives but who want to sort out a particular issue or concern or get more clarity. A good therapist can help either type of person.

Cognitive therapy particularly has a high success rate in studies done on it, for a wide variety of conditions and needs. One way to find a certified cognitive therapist is through this link on the Academy of Cognitive Therapy Web site.

Photo by manic*.

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What Really Messed-Up Thinking Looks Like

Handling negative emotions


The following are not my actual thoughts, I’m happy to say. However, they do demonstrate the different kinds of broken ideas. Each of them could be repaired.

So I know this post is going to suck1, but … wait, you must already be thinking I’m a complete idiot if I say my post is going to suck2. No, no, I shouldn’t be telling myself I know what you’re thinking3! And I shouldn’t say “shouldn’t!” Oh man, I did it again, I’m such a dork4! No, hold on, I can’t call myself a dork in my own post, that’s awful, that ruins the entire post. 5 It ruins the entire site6! And if this site sucks, my entire life sucks7! And this post is making me sick, which means it must suck8. Writing like this ruins all of my posts9. People may tell me they like my posts sometimes, but that’s just because they pity me10. If I didn’t suck, people would always leave comments11. I think I’ll go eat dirt12.


1 Fortune telling
2 Mind reading
3 Should statement
4 Labeling
5 All-or-nothing thinking
6 Magnification/minimization
7 Overgeneralization
8 Emotional reasoning
9 Mental filtering
10 Disqualifying the positive
11 Personalization
12 Actually, this isn’t a broken idea, because there’s nothing unrealistic about deciding to eat dirt if you really want to. However, I think personally I’ll pass.

Photo by Freekz0r

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