by Gerald Opthof, Psy.D, LPC, LCADC
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (known as CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on how individuals think about themselves, the world and other people, and how the individual’s actions will affect their thoughts and feelings. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was founded by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960’s. Dr. Beck had been trained in psychoanalysis and was researching whether psychoanalysis was beneficial in the treatment of depression. Through his research he discovered that analysis was not a suitable form of therapy in the treatment of depression. Dr. Beck began to research what would be beneficial in treating individuals with depression. Through the research, he began to see that patients thoughts about themselves had a direct relationship to their emotional state. Since Dr. Beck’s initial theory, CBT has been studied more than 500 times, showing its efficiency in treating various psychological problems.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is beneficial to almost all individuals that are seeking psychotherapy. CBT is an approved treatment modality by most insurance companies, because when practiced correctly, it can be a short-term evidence approved modality. Individuals can learn quickly ways to identify their rational and irrational beliefs and can learn to see how their beliefs are affecting their thoughts and behaviors. For instance, in the event that somebody you know passes you in the street without recognizing you, you can translate it a few ways; You may think they would prefer not to know you in light of the fact that nobody likes you (which may lead you to feel discouraged), your thought may be that you trust they don’t stop to converse with you, on the grounds that you won’t realize what to say and they’ll think you’re exhausting and dumb (tension), you may think they’re in effect deliberately nasty (prompting outrage). A healthier reaction may be that they simply didn’t see you.
Unlike other talk therapies, CBT focuses on the “here and now”. Not that your past experiences aren’t important to you; however CBT focuses on what is affecting you today.
I have found CBT to be extremely helpful with two populations that I counsel. I specialize in dealing with patients who have some form of addiction (i.e., substances, gambling, sex, food, etc) as well as working with males who are going through or have been through difficult martial/divorce/child custody cases.
CBT & Addiction
In addressing addiction, we often talk about people needing to stop their addiction and work on developing ways to avoid relapsing. This is often easier said than done. If someone could stop and simply step away from the destructive behaviors they are intwined in, wouldn’t they? When discussing relapse prevention we talk about avoiding people, places and things. We talk about how you have to change your lifestyle and anything associated with your addiction. In the case of alcohol, it is everywhere, no matter where you live or work, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and liquor stores. Why is it, that for days, these buildings don’t concern the alcoholic, but then “suddenly” they become weak and go in and relapse. CBT looks not at the people, places and things, but rather the individual and what they are dealing with or not dealing with in the here and now. For the addict, yes, it is important to avoid places that could lead to a relapse; however, isn’t it more important to look at what they were feeling and thinking at the moment of their relapse. CBT used early on in the treatment process of recovery, can significantly aid in educating the addict to what is really behind the cravings and urges, which are the thoughts and feelings. Almost every addict will talk about not wanting to feel or think a certain way. CBT allows us to teach them that those thoughts and feelings are always within us; however, we don’t have to react the same way to those thoughts and emotions, and by doing so, may aid the patient in implementing the skills and tools needed to sustain long term recovery.
— Read more about Cannabis Addiction : HERE —
CBT & Legal Issues
Similarly, no matter what stage of the process you are in with regards to a divorce, the common emotions that an individual will experience are guilt, grief, fear, anger, doubt and regret; all very common and uncomfortable emotions for most individuals. As individuals go through divorce it is not uncommon to hear phrases such as: what the spouse is trying to do to the patient, how they are having parenting time taken away from them, how the spouse wants more money from them, how the patient is being unfairly treated in the court system, and the list goes on. The techniques of CBT can help an individual change their negative beliefs and to focus on being more optimistic.
Clients can begin to experience a calmer and clearer view of their situation using CBT. In matters of divorce and child custody issues, people are often placed, whether due to their circumstances or the motives of another, into position of vulnerability and extreme feelings of loss. When a person is taught the skills and techniques of CBT, they then can redirect their energy to themselves and what it is they are afraid of handling (normally some emotion). As clients begin to express how they are feeling and what thoughts are going through their head, then they can start to say to themselves, “I am ok, this is an unpleasant situation, but I am ok and will be ok when this is over.” They learn to talk about the appropriate emotions they are experiencing and then with the assistance of the therapist, look at the why they were feeling this way and how to reframe their thoughts and actions. The goal is for the individual to address situations appropriately.
There are many therapy modalities that are available to therapists that treat various mental health issues. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can aid in breaking the cycles of negative thinking, feelings and behavior. When an individual can identify the cycle clearly, they can change them, and then alter the way they are feeling. Cognitive Behavioral Therapies goal is to get the individual to where they can “do it myself” and work out their way of addressing problems.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you to break these awful cycles of negative thinking, sentiments and conduct. When you see the parts of the endless loop plainly, you can transform them – and in this way change the way you feel. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy intends to get you to a point where you can “do it without anyone else’s help”, and work out your own particular way of handling issues.
Dr. Opthof is a cognitive behavioral forensic psychotherapist who is licensed to practice in New Jersey. He is a member of the American Counseling Association. In his clinical experience, he has counseled individuals with addictive disorders such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, sexual, and computer addictions.
Over the course of his career, he has been asked to appear on Caucus: New Jersey with Steve Adubato in regards to their Families in Crisis Series. He was appointed to serve as a member of the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and chaired their Prevention Sub-Committee.
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