Mark Hillman, Ph.D., (Psy) LMHC
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often shortened as CBT, is a very practical treatment in which therapist and client work together collaboratively. It centers on the understanding that our thoughts, beliefs and ideas affect the way in which we feel and act towards ourselves and other people in our daily life.
CBT is based on the knowledge that many of our problems are caused and maintained by our unhelpful beliefs and deeply held assumptions about ourselves and others in our life. These underlying assumptions and beliefs are usually learned through our past experiences and interactions with significant people around us. At the time when we learned these, they may have helped us to cope with our experiences. Some of these beliefs may even now be helpful still, but there may be others that are no longer helpful and that really hinder our effective functioning.
The aim of CBT is for therapist and client to work together to try and understand those underlying beliefs and assumptions that are no longer helpful and affect a person's current feelings, behaviors and functioning. Depending on the individual problems that clients are experiencing, therapist and client work together to identify goals and develop a shared treatment plan.
In CBT the focus of therapy is to find solutions to the problems clients are experiencing that will help enhance effective functioning and well-being in daily life. The focus of CBT is mainly in the 'here and now'. Sometimes it can also be very helpful for a person to focus and work through some of the negative experiences they have experienced in the past and then explore how they want to start living their life differently now. This often involves using the time between therapy sessions for clients to try things out differently. CBT can be used completely on its own, but it can also work well in conjunction with medication, that clients have sometimes been prescribed.
The length of therapy depends on clients' individual problems and the goals that they want to achieve. Usually, therapist and client meet for an initial assessment session, after which the therapist would often be able to give the client some idea on how long it might take.
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