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Be Your Own Therapist. How to Make Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work for You

Updated on November 11, 2019
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Colleen is a psychology graduate student who has used cognitive-behavioral therapy on herself to achieve her goals.

What Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a combination of different approaches to help us achieve goals and live better lives. It takes some work, but, CBT can help change your life.

Cognitive therapy is the practice of intentionally changing thought processes. For example, we are happier if we learn to look at our problems as challenges and opportunities to grow than insurmountable mountains. We can talk ourselves out of doing something we shouldn't if we try hard enough. And we can talk ourselves into doing what we know we should do. And some people need to learn to take the perspective of others. We can control many of our emotions by controlling our thoughts. Cognitive therapy is all about learning to control your brain instead of letting your brain control you.

The other half of CBT is behavioral therapy. We all know about conditioning. Punishing bad behavior makes it stop. Rewarding good behavior makes it continue. When working towards reaching goals, rewards and punishments keep you on track. Even if you feel you could not punish yourself, cognitive therapy can convince you otherwise.

When we blend both cognitive and behavioral therapies together, we have a powerful tool at our disposal

How to Use CBT

A little reflection is in order. What could you use CBT to accomplish? Let's say you want to lose weight. The first thing that you must due is set a realistic goal. Then, separate the main goal into smaller goals. Decide how you will achieve these goals. Punish all behaviors that sabotage your goals and reward behaviors that move you toward your goals.

Meet Jane. She wanted to lose weight. She gave up most fats and sweets and decided to exercise three days a week. Her goal was to lose two pounds a week, eight pounds a month, for a total of fifty pounds in a little over six months.

Jane loved makeup and accessories. Every time she achieved her weekly goal, she bought herself one new makeup item. After reaching her monthly goals, Jane bought herself a new purse, a new wallet, or jewelry. Jane was rewarding her good behavior. When Jane caved in and ate something she wouldn't, she would put in extra exercise time or walk around the block to burn off the extra calories and punish bad behaviors. Jane is using CBT to achieve her goals.

Meet Jon. Jon wanted to quit smoking. He enlisted the aid of an internet stop smoking program. He got his patches and gum and picked his quit date. Every time he felt a craving, he talked himself out of it or redirected his attention to something else, often by taking a quick, brisk stroll. He often reminded himself about how easier it was to breathe and how much more energy he had.The money that he saved not buying cigarettes he added to a jar, and, after just six months, had accumulated enough money to take a weekend trip with the family. His whole family was rewarded for supporting him.

Meet Joan. She wanted to clean up her language. She chose alternative words for her favorite curse words. Then she went into action. Every time she cursed, she had to put a quarter in the cursing jar. This was her punishment. The money in the jar went to charity. No IOUs accepted. When Joan went a full day without cursing, she got her favorite treat at night. That was her reward.

These are just three examples on how CBT can improve lives. Don't hesitate to try it. What can you lose?

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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      20 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have found CBT to be very helpful in warding off depression and anxiety. When I find myself feeling depressed or anxious, I examine my thought patterns and look for things like criticism, perfectionism, blame, and guilt. Once I find the thoughts, I work to change them to something more positive and my mood is uplifted.

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