What is cognitive therapy?
Cognitive therapy is a very active and direct type of therapy that works by changing negative thoughts that cause emotional distress. Although there are many kinds of cognitive therapy that go by different names, they all focus on your thoughts and beliefs as a primary cause of your symptoms.
This type of therapy works well in treating depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.
What is the theory behind this therapy?
Experts who study and use cognitive therapy believe that depression is caused by:
your negative outlook and thoughts about events, the future, and yourself
negative core beliefs you developed over time and through events in your early life
For example, your spouse may be mildly upset with you, or your boss may say he wants to see you. If you link self-defeating beliefs with a negative view of reality, you may leap to the conclusion that your spouse no longer loves you or your boss is about to fire you.
How do your beliefs affect your thoughts?
If you have the belief that you should be perfect and never make mistakes, you will probably be very critical of yourself, even over the most minor matters. You may tend to blame yourself for everything. You may think you are a failure in everything you do. Even a simple mistake can lead to negative thoughts that leave you feeling hopeless and awful.
The goal of cognitive therapy is to break this cycle by stopping these negative thinking habits and replacing them with more realistic ones. You and your therapist will work as a team to test the logic of your thoughts. For example, your therapist may help you examine your belief that you should be perfect. Is it reasonable to expect that of yourself? What has been the result of that belief? What is likely to be the result of it in the future?
You and your therapist will work together to help you to accept that life is a balance between good and bad events, and that your outlook affects your feelings and actions.
What are the steps in cognitive therapy?
Test your personal beliefs and the way you think about events, yourself, and the future.
Become familiar with your negative thought patterns so you are aware of them when they occur.
Do the homework you and your therapist agree on. Cognitive therapy is a team effort.
Keep the momentum going once you have made changes in your thinking habits. Read books on cognitive therapy. Go in for booster sessions with your therapist.
Changing negative attitudes and beliefs takes a lot of work but it can be done. Cognitive therapy can change your entire outlook on life.