What is cognitive therapy?

The cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common and well-studied forms of psychotherapy. It combines two therapeutic approaches: the cognitive one therapy and the behavior therapy.

Which treatment methods are used depends on the problem, disease or disorder. The basic idea of therapy but it is always the same: what we think, how we behave and what feelings others trigger in us are closely related – and are crucial for our well-being.

What is cognitive therapy?

The term “cognitive” is derived from the Latin “cognoscere” and means “to recognize”. In a cognitive therapy it is about becoming clear about your thoughts, attitudes and expectations. The goal is to identify and then change false and incriminating beliefs. Because it is often not only the things and situations themselves that cause problems, but also the perhaps far too great importance that is given to them.

A stressful thought pattern is, for example, immediately drawing negative conclusions from an incident, generalizing them and applying them to similar situations. Generalizing thought patterns are referred to in psychology as “overgeneralization”. Another troubling misconception is “catastrophizing”: something disturbing happens and excessive worry about impending disaster arises.

Such thought patterns sometimes develop into a “self-fulfilling prophecy” and make life difficult for those affected. For example, if you believe that other people have something against you, you behave negatively. And thereby triggers others to become less friendly.

Using a cognitive therapy however, one can learn to replace wrong thought patterns with more realistic and less harmful thoughts. CBT helps you think more clearly and be more in control of your own thoughts.

How does cognitive behavioral therapy work?

The behavior therapy has its roots in behaviorism. This theory assumes that human behavior is learned and can therefore be changed or re-learned. In a behavior therapy t’s about finding out if there are certain behaviors that make life difficult or make problems worse. The second step is to work on changing such behaviors

In anxiety disorders, there is part of the behavior therapy often in learning calming behaviors. For example, you can learn to reduce your own fear by consciously breathing deeply in and out, so that your body and breathing come to rest. This involves focusing on the breath rather than the trigger of the fear. Such techniques can help to calm down and not build into anxiety.

Most psychotherapists working in cognitive behavior therapy are trained, describe themselves in America as behavior therapists.

What distinguishes behavioral therapy from other psychotherapies?

The cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is problem-oriented. In contrast to psychoanalysis, for example, it deals little with the past. Rather, the goal of CBT is to address problems in the here and now. The focus is on “helping people to help themselves”: one should be able to cope with life again as quickly as possible without therapeutic help. This does not mean that the influence of past events in a cognitive behavior therapy is completely hidden. Above all, however, it is about recognizing and changing currently stressful thought patterns and behaviors.

In analytical psychotherapy, which has its origins in classical psychoanalysis after Freud, other methods are used. The therapist helps to uncover and understand problems and their deeper causes.

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