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CBT: Cognitive Behavior Therapy: a Tool for the Common Person

Updated on March 28, 2020
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Fin lives in the Central Valley, where he is a student at CSUB. He writes in his free time and is interested in social issues and travel.

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a method of addressing thought patterns - usually negative and disruptive ones - in order to facilitate healthy behaviors. It is based on the idea that thinking, feeling and acting are all connected.

In the CBT model, there is an understanding that your thoughts affect your feelings and will determine how you behave. For example, if you were to wake up in the morning with the thought that today will be a wonderful day, you will adopt a healthy outlook and feel good and may find yourself engaged in activities which area agreeable to you.

In CBT, the thinking element is not necessarily the initiator: your feelings can affect your perceptions and your actions; your physical behavior can determine how you think and feel as well.

The thinking element is probably the most essential because of the fact that at any given moment, you are in control of your thoughts. You can choose to react to a situation or respond to a stimulus. You are in control of your thinking whether you are a rest in a chair, or going for a jog on the beach.

Your mind is vast and powerful element that can be used as a tool to heal.

A Brief History

CBT was created by a psychiatrist named Aaron Beck in the 1960s, while at the University of Pennsylvania. Beck was working mainly with patients who were experiencing severe depression and discovered that most of these individuals experienced what he saw as automatic thoughts. The patients would develop negative outlooks of themselves and an unhealthy world view. These perceptions came from expectations of failure or remembrances of past failures that the patients carried around with them and occurred spontaneously.

Beck discovered that by helping the patients to recognize these thought patterns and encouraging them to develop new, positive outlooks, their depression was alleviated. By helping the patients instill more realistic perspectives, they managed to feel better and choose productive behaviors.

CBT helped the patients re-frame their world view and in becoming more functional.

Some Thoughts

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Automatic Thoughts

Beck found that many patients suffered from automatic thoughts which contained a negative world view.

By addressing the negative thinking, the patients were able to develop realistic perspectives which allowed them to feel better and engage in productive behaviors.

Mind Body Spirit

Mind Body Spirit and Mindfullness

You have probably seen the words mind, body, and spirit in the same sentence. It is a an example of a popular colloquialism which is synonymous with being healthy. It is the human condition broken up into its basic elements. We are thinking beings with spiritual inclinations. This is what separates us from the animals. We have the ability to create philosophies and forge religions. We recognize a higher element other than the physical world around us which we all can tap into.

Being human and dealing with the elements of our existence can sometimes be confusing and filled with contradictions. We hunger, but recognize the need to feed our bodies healthy foods. As well, we may pursue fasting because it helps fuel our spiritual needs.

One of the ways to address this energy would be to live in the moment, or practice mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a way to live in the present. When you are in a mindful state, your concerns about future choices are not interfering with your current perceptions. You don't allow worries about the past to affect your thoughts or feelings in the moment. You are concerned about the here and the now. It is the present that matters most.

Just as CBT addresses automatic thinking, mindfulness fosters a positive world view because when you live in the moment you are free from distraction and worry. There are several techniques one can practice that will help you focus on living in the moment.

In addition, there is a Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) which you can look at that will provide insight into some of the outcomes related to this practice. A link to the MAAS is below.

mindfulness fosters a positive world view because when you live in the moment you are free from distraction and worry.

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The Importance of Living in the Moment

Psychologists have recognized that often it is the negative thinking related to past shortcomings or concerns about future endeavors that are distractions to current successes. Beck recognized that sometimes these thoughts occurred automatically and encouraged depression in his patients. By readjusting current thinking patterns, Beck was able to help his patients refocus and achieve their goals.

As in the thinking, feeling, behaving paradigm we discussed earlier, your thoughts can determine your actions. Often this is without intent. The MAAS was developed because it was recognized that there are results - such as dropping a plate - that can happen when the individual is influenced by automatic thoughts. Paying attention to the current moment and what is happening to us now, can help alleviate such misgivings.

Often patients may be unaware that they are in a pattern of disruptive behavior that is instigated by negative thinking patterns. The MAAS is a useful tool in testing this element.

Take the test yourself and see if you are a victim of negative thought patterns. Maybe you should practice mindfulness.

Crowds Can Be Lonely

Your Mind Always Makes You Right

I used to have a professor who would say "Your mind always makes you right" and this basically is a good way to sum up the essence of CBT. It's just trying to adopt a healthy thinking pattern, even though your situation may dictate otherwise. You have heard the saying "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" and that is what you are doing with CBT.

Often you will encounter this technique in a clinical setting, or in facilitated groups. This is a technique that can be practiced on one's own though. It just simply means trying to choose a different way of looking at things when you feel sadness coming over you or may be dismayed with your current prospects. You can choose to focus on a positive outcome when you are rejected for the job interview you were hopeful for or you can choose to think of something positive like a sunny day when the rude driver cuts you off in traffic.

Shakespeare said "things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so". Basically you have the power to decide what you thinking and how you feel about it. And from there, you can make an effort to take the steps in the right direction.

You think good thoughts, you feel good feelings and you make good decisions that benefit you.

Power of Positive Thinking

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This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Fin


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    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      8 months ago from Barstow

      nice example. We can speak our imaginations into realities.

    • Brenda Arledge profile image


      8 months ago from Washington Court House

      I do believe your thoughts as well as the thoughts of others can effect your outcome.

      I try to keep negative thoughts away.

      If I am facing an illness I try to limit who I tell as I don't want any negative thoughts.

      Good article.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      well I find the process of writing about things like this very cathartic as well. thanks for the nice words.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      17 months ago from LOS ANGELES


      I would appreciate any exercise routines you can share. Thanks' for the informative article.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      It is something that takes work and focus but if you pursue it one step at a time you will see yourself making progress. I think people today expect instantaneous results.

      What you should do is set asside a few minutes each day and try some exercises. Try focusing on your body - ever inch of it from your toes on up and just the sensations....that is one.

      Look at something in front of you - candles work - or focus on your favorite room or garden with your eyes closed.

      There are many exercises you can attempt. It really is helpful after awhile. I'll try to collect some and share them.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      17 months ago from LOS ANGELES

      I believe lots of people suffer from CBT and may not realize it. I've read another hub here about the practice of mindfulness. Its hard to do. I get distracted so easily.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      thank you. I find it a useful coping device.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      yes it is very effective with many applications...and I believe if we all adapted it our society would be much more healthy.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      Well thank you. It's a very simple practice with immediate results...yet a bit complicated to understand. basically you are in control of you

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      17 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I believe CBT is the best therapy in most situations. It has helped me greatly in recovering from PTSD (although I know there are some other options for that disorder that are excellent) and bipolar, and just to navigate life challenges. This was an informative article.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      17 months ago from USA

      This is all very fascinating. I love the quote, "Your mind always makes you right." I have always had the concept of CBT in my mind, but never had it explained as well as you have in your very informative and well-written article.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I learned CBT after being in the Mental Health Unit for suicidal ideation. It has been most helpful to me and I recommend it to others as a way to grow in your understanding of how thoughts, feelings, and emotions are intertwined.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      Well it is a first draft so any constructive criticisms are welcomed. I embrace CBT wholeheartedly and would like to learn more about it in practice. thanks

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      17 months ago

      I use CBT as a therapy tool and find it extremely useful in many situations. Your article is very informative - thank you for sharing.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      17 months ago from Barstow

      Thank you.

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 

      17 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      Good overview of CBT!


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