Cognitive Behavioral Therapy​

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on a person's thoughts and beliefs, and how they influence a person's emotions and actions. The therapist helps the client learn how to identify distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns, recognize and change inaccurate beliefs, relate to others in more positive ways, and change behaviors accordingly. CBT's ability to help change a person's thinking to be more adaptive, effective, and healthy, while helping them change unhealthy behavior patterns, will lead to the alleviation of symptoms and an improved quality of life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a relatively short-term therapy approach that focuses on a person's current problems and teaches people specific skills on how to solve them. It is a focused approach to problem solving, which aims to identify the thought processes and behavioral patterns that can lock depression and anxiety in place. Both patient and therapist need to be actively involved in the therapy process, and much of the healing and treatment takes place between sessions in the form of "homework," which will allow the skills being learned in the therapy sessions to be applied in the client's daily life. Such practicing of skills between sessions helps ensure that the CBT techniques become engrained as long-term change, and can give clients the skills to deal with symptoms if they arise again later on in a person's life.

Research has shown CBT to be one of the most effective therapeutic approaches available for a range of disorders, such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, substance abuse, and many more.  The psychologists within Capstone Psychological Services will develop an individualized and flexible plan that can be applied and adapted to a wide range of problems.CBT treatments for some of the most commonly treated disorders are listed below. Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, but rather just focuses on some of the most common disorders for which CBT is a highly effective treatment:

CBT for Depression

Many studies have shown that CBT is a particularly effective treatment for depression, especially minor or moderate depression. Some people with depression may be successfully treated with CBT only. Others may need both CBT and medication. CBT helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns. Doing so helps people interpret their environment and interactions with others in a positive and realistic way. It may also help a person recognize things that may be contributing to the depression and help him or her change behaviors that may be making the depression worse.

CBT for Anxiety Disorders

CBT therapy for anxiety disorders aims to help a person develop a more adaptive response to a fear. A CBT therapist may use "exposure" therapy to treat certain anxiety disorders, such as a specific phobia, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD treatment and treatment for anxiety both utilize exposure therapy, as exposure therapy has been found to be highly effective in treating anxiety-related disorders. It works by helping a person confront a specific fear or memory while in a safe and supportive environment. The main goals of exposure therapy are to help the patient learn that anxiety can lessen over time and give him or her the tools to cope with fear or traumatic memories.

CBT for Panic Disorder

Treatment for Panic Disorder focuses on helping clients learn how to retrain their body to respond to anxiety. Panic attacks are actually a series of anxiety symptoms (i.e., rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, upset stomach, choking sensation, ect) that a person misinterprets as an catastrophic or dangerous. Panic attack treatment focuses on using CBT techniques to decrease the frequency of the attacks and to learn how to manage the anxiety before it gets to the level of a panic attack.

CBT treatment focuses on helping the client learn how their own thoughts, usually about the unbearable nature of experiencing anxiety, actually leads to the panic attacks themselves. Specific therapeutic approaches, such as exposure therapy and interoceptive therapy are used to help retrain a client's ability to interpret anxiety and situations that trigger anxiety more accurately. Techniques are then learned to take control and manage those sensations effectively, thereby reducing or eliminating the occurrence of panic attacks.

CBT for Bipolar Disorder

People with Bipolar Disorder usually need to take medication, such as a mood stabilizer. But CBT is often used as an added treatment. CBT can help a person cope with bipolar symptoms and learn to recognize when a mood shift is about to occur. CBT also helps a person with bipolar disorder stick with a treatment plan to reduce the chances of relapse (e.g., when symptoms return).

CBT for Substance Abuse

CBT for substance abuse focuses on client's learning to identify the thoughts and beliefs (often negative thoughts about themselves and their lives) that lead them to turn to drugs or alcohol. Treatment helps the client unlearn old patterns of behavior and to learn new ways of coping with situations and thoughts that may have led them to use substances in the past. Attention is also focused on the underlying issues that often co-occur with substance use, such as depression and anxiety.

CBT for Schizophrenia

The most important element of treating Schizophrenia is connecting the client with psychiatric medications. This is a crucial element of treatment to help minimize the impact of the symptoms and achieve a higher level of stability. Research has shown that CBT, as an additional treatment component, can help a patient cope with schizophrenia. CBT helps clients learn more adaptive and realistic interpretations of events and are also taught various coping techniques for dealing with "voices" or other hallucinations. They learn how to identify what triggers episodes of the illness, which can prevent or reduce the chances of relapse. CBT for Schizophrenia also stresses skill-oriented therapies, where clients learn skills to cope with life's challenges, elements of daily functioning, and problem-solving skills. This can help patients with Schizophrenia minimize the types of stress that can lead to outbursts and hospitalizations.

(National Institute for Mental Health)

CBT Therapy Services

Capstone Psychological Services

Lauren Stevenson, PsyD., Director
Pasadena, CA