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4 Benefits of Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying negative thoughts and beliefs in order to modify them into more positive alternatives. The main purpose of CBT is to act on irrational thought patterns that influence negative feelings and behaviors.

The benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy are numerous, but the most significant advantages include providing patients with hope, supporting self-esteem, helping people unwind or relax, and supporting rational thought processes.

Despite numerous benefits, CBT has some limitations too. The therapy may not be enough for some patients. At the same time, it could be on the pricier side. Cognitive-behavioral therapy tends to overlook that some negative concepts are based on real experience, not irrational thoughts.

Woman holding her hands by her face with eyes closed

1. Provides people with hope regarding their condition

Persons with mental health conditions often feel pessimistic or hopeless regarding their life and future. Hopelessness comes along when a person feels stuck in the state they’re in, particularly after failed attempts to get better. Persons in such a state of mind tend to feel like they’re trapped in a dark and deep hole that’s impossible to climb out of. 

A paper from the Social Work in Mental Health reported that hopelessness is an important but under-researched dimension of health among persons with severe mental illness. Not just that, but feeling of hopelessness contributes to unhealthy behaviors such as high alcohol consumption. This creates a vicious cycle where a person feels hopeless, engages in risky behaviors, and feels more hopeless afterward.

Mental health problems, including addiction, affect one’s perspective and make it impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A person can’t think ahead of time when the illness will no longer impact them. Many assume recovery isn’t meant to happen.

One of the most prominent advantages of CBT is that it works to change a person’s perspective and provide people with hope.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people understand their thoughts aren’t always realistic. Sometimes our thinking patterns aren’t accurate and do not represent reality or what’s likely to happen.

Word hope printed on a stone laying on a sand

During CBT therapy sessions, patients learn to challenge or question their thoughts. The act of challenging thoughts or beliefs gives rise to new possibilities or hopes. They can imagine their life beyond illness and realize it’s possible to overcome their current state and live a happier life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy enables people with mental health illnesses to feel more optimistic and believe they deserve to get better.

2. Supports the growth of self-esteem

Low self-esteem is among the most prominent characteristics of mental health disorders. A paper from the Annals of General Hospital Psychiatry confirmed that lower self-esteem frequently accompanies psychiatric disorders and plays a role in the quality of life for psychiatric patients. 

Mental health disorders associated with low self-esteem include depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and others.

The most dangerous thing about low self-esteem is that it contributes to the cycle of negative thoughts and beliefs. At the same time, negative or irrational thoughts and beliefs contribute to low self-esteem. 

Negative self-esteem can lead to maladjustment and escapism. A person who lacks trust in themselves becomes unable to handle daily problems. As a result, their ability to achieve their full potential is significantly reduced.

Health Education Research published a paper confirming that focusing on self-esteem is a core element of mental health promotion.

Happy man hugging himself

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is beneficial for persons with low self-esteem. It enables them to develop more confidence in their abilities. What makes CBT beneficial for increasing self-esteem is that it helps people understand how their thoughts work. 

By learning to identify unrealistic thoughts and negative thinking patterns, people can control them. That means their whole belief system changes as well. With these changes, people also notice shifts in their perspective of themselves and the world. As a result, their self-esteem increases. Patients no longer think they can’t do or achieve something, which is why their tendency to engage in harmful behavior also decreases. 

In a paper published by Frontiers, cognitive-behavioral therapy proved to be effective in increasing self-esteem.

3. Helping people unwind

Stress is a major component of mental health disorders. While it’s a natural response to negative stimuli, prolonged or unmanaged stress can cause various problems. Not only does it increase the risk of mental health problems, but it also worsens the existing conditions. Stress can lead to or aggravate depression, anxiety, burnout, and other illnesses. 

Problems with stress stem from the fact it can contribute to negative thinking. For a person with irrational thoughts and beliefs, this can be particularly difficult. Negative thought pattern further contributes to underlying mental health disorders. 

Stressed working man with hands on his head at a desk

For that reason, stress management is one of the most significant aspects of treating a mental health problem. That’s where cognitive-behavioral therapy steps in. One of the many benefits of CBT is that it helps people unwind and relax. It helps people learn to control how they respond to negative stimuli and stressful situations. When that happens, it becomes easier to respond to triggers of irrational/negative thoughts in a healthier manner. 

When it comes to the strengths of cognitive-behavioral therapy, it’s important to emphasize that it helps patients adopt more favorable coping mechanisms. In turn, they can relax and have a healthier approach to life and their mental illness.

4. Increases the use of rational thought processes

A rational thought process is an ability to think with a reason i.e. rationally. It refers to the ability to reach sensible conclusions from logic, facts, and data. The rational thought process isn’t based on emotions but on information. 

People with mental health problems usually don’t have control over their thoughts. They tend to deal with cognitive distortions. The term cognitive distortion describes an irrational or exaggerated pattern of thinking. These thoughts cause people to perceive reality inaccurately. 

It is cognitive distortions that lead to negative thinking patterns and false beliefs. They worsen mental health and jeopardize recovery unless resolved properly. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps achieve just that.

Man writing Rational thinking on a glass in front of him

The most significant advantage of CBT is that it promotes rational thought processes and increases its use among patients. Men and women with mental health problems struggle with cognitive distortions. These irrational thoughts and beliefs can be persistent and stubborn, difficult to ignore or eliminate. The more people focus on these thoughts, the worse they become. 

Cognitive distortions are, thereby, targeted in the management of mental health problems. The therapy teaches patients to question these beliefs. Through questioning and evaluating or analyzing cognitive distortions, people understand they’re not based on logic and reason. Instead, they come to the realization those thoughts stem from emotions rather than logic. 

All this can help a person gain more control over their thinking process. It’s also a major aspect of managing mental health disorders. 

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that helps people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave. This type of talk therapy is structured and goal-oriented, and it works for the management of various mental health disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy. The latter explores what a person does, whereas the former is concerned about what they think. 

The basis of both types of therapy is that healthy or positive thoughts lead to healthy behaviors and feelings. For that reason, CBT is used for the management of anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders. It can also help patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Even though CBT was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Aaron T. Beck at the University of Pennsylvania, the roots of this therapy are traced to ancient times. Some of the most significant aspects of CBT have been found in philosophical traditions such as Stoicism. According to Stoicism, we can use logic to identify and dismiss false beliefs/thoughts that lead to destructive emotions.

The main goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to change the automatic negative thinking that contributes to or worsens the emotional and mental health and well-being of patients. Sometimes CBT alone is necessary, but in some cases, doctors recommend it in combination with other treatment approaches such as medications. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a hands-on approach that allows patients and therapists to collaborate on modifying patterns of behavior and thinking that are of the biggest benefit to patients’ moods and quality of life.

What are the benefits of CBT for anxiety?

Benefits of CBT for Anxiety list

The benefits of CBT for anxiety are listed below.

  • Helps people become more rational: Anxiety disorders can trigger irrational thought patterns and vice versa. Some types of irrational thoughts, such as catastrophic thinking, interpretations of events, appraisals, and other worst-case scenarios, lead to difficulty coping. That happens because these thoughts are logically irrational and, thereby, complex to handle. The greatest problem with irrational thinking is that a person isn’t always aware of it. As a person keeps focusing on these thoughts, they become stronger and aggravate symptoms of anxiety. The main purpose of CBT is to help patients identify irrational thoughts, reach their core, and let them go. The therapist empowers a patient to acknowledge that some thoughts and beliefs have no rational or logical foundation. This shakes the power of those thoughts and paves the way for the management of anxiety.
  • Increases control of thinking pattern: Unwanted or uncontrollable thoughts are a common symptom of anxiety. Negative thoughts affect everyone, but anxiety makes it difficult or almost impossible for a person to control them. The relationship between unwanted thoughts and anxiety is a two-way street; one influences the other. Successful anxiety management calls for greater control over racing thoughts and cognitive distortions. That’s where cognitive-behavioral therapy steps in. As CBT supports rational thinking, it allows a patient with anxiety to control their cognitive distortions more effectively. They can recognize irrational thinking patterns and manage them in order to prevent the worsening of anxiety symptoms.
  • Makes problems more manageable: Anxiety affects the ability to solve problems in educational, professional, and social aspects of life. Emotions such as anxiety and fear tend to affect problem-solving, according to a paper from the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience. Irrational thoughts can “cloud” a person’s mind, reduce rational thinking abilities, and thereby make it difficult to devise solutions. These thoughts also affect decision-making. The process of decision-making takes place in the prefrontal cortex. Anxiety reduces the activity of this brain region. That way, it slows down the part of the brain that people engage in making decisions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy makes problems more manageable and thereby proves to be helpful for anxiety patients. First, CBT focuses on current problems that are troubling a patient and enables them to find solutions. At the same time, with improved rational thinking, patients find it easier to make wiser decisions and solve tasks at hand.
  • Long-term effects: Tackling irrational thoughts and beliefs requires a long-term commitment or a treatment whose results are long-term. This is yet another advantage of cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with anxiety. Studies show CBT yields long-term results. For instance, a study from Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics shows CBT provides long-term results for various conditions, particularly when compared to the long-term effectiveness of medical treatment. Also, JAMA Psychiatry published a study that showed that CBT was linked to lower anxiety symptoms within 12 months after treatment completion. Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides long-term results because it empowers a person to take control of their thought processes and makes them more resilient to cognitive distortions and other negative stimuli.

What are the benefits of CBT for depression?

Benefits of CBT for Depression list

The benefits of CBT for depression are listed below.

  • Promotes stress management: Stress wreaks havoc on mental health, while chronic stress increases the incidence of depression. The relationship between stress and depression is bidirectional in a way that one can cause or worsen the other. Chronic or severe stress impairs the equilibrium of the psyche. Fortunately, cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on stress management proves to be effective. It works through increased mindfulness and rationalization of the thinking process. Reducing stress levels can help manage depression.
  • Reduces the intensity of depression symptoms: The intensity of depression symptoms ranges from mild to severe. Various factors influence the severity of these symptoms, including stress, co-occurring mental health disorder, and life circumstances. One of several goals of depression management is to work on reducing the intensity of the symptoms that people experience. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can make it happen. It works by helping a patient identify negative thoughts or beliefs that feed their depression and its symptoms. Then, a person starts working on dismantling those beliefs, which leads to reduced severity of symptoms that patients experience
  • Gives a new perspective on problems: Depression can alter information processing in the brain. It changes a person’s perspective of their life and the world around them. Negative thoughts have too much power, which leads to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. A person with depression sees no way out of their situation or they believe a certain issue has no solution. An important benefit of cognitive-behavioral therapy for persons with depression is that it gives them a new perspective. Again, it works through increased rational thinking processes. By challenging negative beliefs, a person starts thinking more rationally and begins to draw conclusions based on logic. This allows them to change their perspective on solving some problems, their own life, and the world around them.
  • Increases happiness and life satisfaction: Depression steals joy, happiness, and passion for life. Men and women with depression tend to struggle with the loss of interest in life and activities they used to enjoy or that made them happy. That said, a study from the Asian Journal of Psychiatry found that cognitive-behavioral therapy leads to significant enhancement of life satisfaction, life orientation, and family functioning. It is the very irrational thinking that makes depression suck happiness out of someone’s life. As therapy targets those thought patterns, it helps a person regain their happiness back.
  • Reduces risk of suicidal thoughts and tendencies: the most severe symptoms of depression are suicidal thoughts and tendencies. While most people with depression experience symptoms such as helplessness and hopelessness, in some patients, these feelings are extreme. They see no solution to their problems, believe they are not good enough and are convinced the only way to get out of the situation is through suicide. Some people have suicidal thoughts only, but others go a step further and actually try to find ways to do it. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps reduce the risk of this severe scenario. A paper from Psychology Research and Behavior Management explained that cognitive-behavioral therapy is a useful strategy for the prevention of suicidal cognitions and behaviors. It works by decreasing symptoms that are linked to a higher risk of suicide. So, by reducing the intensity of depression symptoms (as mentioned above), CBT can decrease the likelihood of suicidal ideation.

What are the benefits of CBT for physical addiction?

Benefits of CBT for Physical Addiction list

The benefits of CBT for physical addiction are listed below.

  • Helps identify triggers for substance abuse: A trigger can be any environmental or emotional factor that increases cravings for addictive substances and makes a person want to use them. Exposure to triggers without effective coping techniques can only worsen addiction and lead to more serious complications. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps identify triggers and deal with them accordingly. Triggers are often irrational thoughts or impaired perception of reality. This type of talk therapy helps deal with triggers in three ways such as to recognize, avoid, and cope. Recognize which situations or circumstances lead to substance abuse. Avoid those situations whenever possible. And, use CBT techniques to cope with emotions caused by those triggers.
  • Reduces cravings: The biggest reason people relapse when attempting to recover from addiction is craving for the substance. Cravings happen because the body and brain, which got used to the presence of the substance, start asking for it, believing they need it. Also, addictive substances act on dopamine and produce feelings of pleasure. With continued use, dopamine receptors weaken, meaning higher amounts of the substance are necessary for the same effects. That leads to higher cravings for drugs or alcohol, dependence, and addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps persons with physical addiction reduce their cravings. Its mechanism of action is simple here; the focus is to help a person avoid succumbing to those cravings. Cravings appear as irrational thoughts that pressure a person to take the substance. CBT empowers a person to recognize those thoughts, challenge them, understand they don’t need the drug and remain resilient. This lessens the power of the cravings in physical addiction. 
  • Prevents relapse: Various factors lead to relapse, including high-stress levels and unrealistic expectations of addiction recovery. Relapse isn’t the end of the road, and it doesn’t indicate that recovery is impossible. Instead, relapse is an opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses to work on. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help prevent relapse by lowering stress levels, supporting rational thinking, and decreasing cravings. It also teaches patients skills and techniques they can use to support their recovery.
  • Increases confidence: Low self-esteem or confidence can contribute to addiction and jeopardize a person’s recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients with physical addictions to increase their confidence by recognizing the link between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. According to CBT, it’s not about what we experience but how we interpret situations or events that determine how we are. Instead of interpreting certain situations or stimuli in an irrational or negative manner, CBT teaches patients to base their decisions on logic and reason, which leads to higher confidence.
  • Offers new behavior strategies: Irrational thoughts and beliefs lead to negative feelings, which culminates in negative or risky behaviors such as addiction to various substances. Cognitive-behavioral therapy offers new strategies that patients can use to improve their behaviors. It works by correcting their cognitive distortions and thought processes. Through healthier thinking patterns, people improve their feelings or emotions, which leads to positive changes in their behaviors. Also, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches coping mechanisms and ensures patients know how to act in different situations. In other words, CBT teaches people some useful strategies to modify their behaviors and prevent them from reacting out of proportion to reality. All this helps a person with physical addiction because they get to control their reactions to things around them.

How does Cognitive behavior therapy work?

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy works in a relatively simple mechanism of action. As the UK’s NHS explains, cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the concept of inter-connectedness of our thoughts, feelings, actions, and physical sensations. Negative or irrational thoughts lead to negative feelings and trap a person in a vicious cycle. 

Cognitive distortions lead to an unhelpful mindset, jumping to conclusions, mistakenly seeing situations as catastrophic, and seeing things as good or bad only with nothing in between. When left unmanaged, this way of thinking happens automatically. However, cognitive-behavioral therapy challenges these automatic thoughts and encourages patients to compare them to reality.

What cognitive-behavioral therapy does is help people handle overwhelming problems in a more positive manner. It works by breaking down those problems into smaller elements. Patients learn techniques and strategies to change negative patterns and thereby improve how they feel or deal with their mental health problems.

Unlike some other forms of therapy, CBT is concerned with present i.e. current problems. It is a practical therapy to improve a person’s state of mind. When a person starts viewing a specific situation in a more helpful manner, their distress reduces. They can use that mindset to make healthier and wiser choices.

When it comes to the subject of how does CBT work, it’s useful to keep in mind that in order to help patients overcome their mental health disorders, therapists may use various CBT techniques. These techniques include cognitive restructuring/reframing, role-playing, exposure therapy, journaling, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. Other techniques include goal-setting, problem-solving, positive activities, systematic desensitization, and homework. 

What are the components of Cognitive behavioral therapy?

The components of cognitive-behavioral therapy are cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based therapy.

The main focus of cognitive therapy is on thought patterns, which are considered responsible for negative emotions and behaviors. Cognitive therapy teaches that negative emotional states are produced and maintained by exaggerated or ineffective biases in thinking. For that reason, cognitive therapy works to identify self-destructive thoughts or beliefs and teaches a patient to respond to them in a more rational manner. This leads to fewer emotional problems and more successful behaviors.

Behavioral therapy, on the other hand, focuses on behaviors and considers them a more significant component of problematic psychological patterns. This type of therapy prioritizes analyzing problems to identify problematic behaviors, which are then replaced with more favorable alternatives.

Mindfulness-based therapy is a relatively new component of CBT. It emphasizes sustained attention to the present.

At the same time, components of cognitive-behavioral therapy include thoughts (cognitions), emotions (feelings), behaviors, and a person’s biology (physiology). Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches that if a person can identify and understand these four components and how they interact, they will be able to explain and solve their problems.

What are the other types of Cognitive behavioral therapy?

Other types of cognitive-behavioral therapy are demonstrated in the table below.

Type of CBTDeveloped inCharacteristics Best for 
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)1970s by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington when she and her team discovered that classic CBT isn’t enough for some patientsSpecifically created for people who feel their emotions intensely It was initially used for the treatment of patients with borderline personality disorderHelps people understand and accept difficult feelings, learn skills to manage them, and make positive changes in lifeSelf-harming Depression Suicidal ideation Borderline personality disorder Bipolar disorder Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Substance use disorders Eating disorders ADHD
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)1982 by Steven Hayes, an American psychologist, in order to develop an approach that integrates both key features of cognitive and behavior therapyEmphasizes acceptance as a way of dealing with negative thoughtsTeaches patients to stop denying their inner emotionsHelps patients acknowledge deeper feelings without judgment and commit to healing Depression Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) PTSD Workplace-related stress Substance abuse Chronic pain Psychosis 
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)1950s by Dr. Albert Ellis, American psychotherapist and psychologist, after losing hope in the power and effectiveness of psychotherapy Helps identify irrational beliefs and negative thoughts that lead to emotional/behavioral issuesBelieves in Unconditional Self Acceptance wherein a person should think of themselves highly no matter whatDepression Anxiety Guilt Procrastination Aggression Eating disorders Extreme or inappropriate anger
Multimodal therapy 1960s by South African psychologist Arnold Lazarus after noticing his patients could benefit from multiple therapy types at onceIntended to optimize the treatment of mental health disorders by delivering multiple types of therapy togetherMay include DBT, ACT, REBT, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, and othersAnxiety Depression Schizophrenia Personality disorders Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Bipolar disorder Autism spectrum disorders Eating disorders Substance use disorders Psychotic symptoms

How long does it take for the effects of CBT to begin?

Standard CBT treatment requires weekly sessions for 12 to 20 weeks, Harvard Health explains. The sessions last between 30 and 60 minutes. Some patients may need more than that to experience the effects and achieve the full potential of CBT. However, there is also an option called intensive CBT (I-CBT) which contains longer individual sessions concentrated into a month, week, or weekend.

In the beginning, patients may attend 60-minute sessions once or twice a week. As they keep making progress, sessions may drop to 30-45 minutes once a week or every two weeks. The therapist is the one who determines the length of sessions based on the unique needs and progress of each patient. 

How long it takes for the effects of CBT to begin depends on several factors. These factors include the type and severity of mental health disorder, presence of co-morbidities, adherence to the therapy, patient engagement, and others. The onset of effects of CBT is different for each patient since everyone’s different.

What are the limitations of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The limitations of cognitive-behavioral therapy are listed below.

Limitations of cognitive-behavioral therapy list
  • Requires commitment: Although CBT treatment is relatively short-term, it still requires a great deal of commitment and persistence to get desired effects. For some individuals, it can be particularly difficult to commit (but not impossible), which is why this point is among CBT limitations.
  • Can be pricey: The costs of cognitive-behavioral therapy may vary from one place to another or based on insurance coverage. In some cases, it can be on the more expensive side. The good thing, though, is that many therapists offer sliding scale fees to make it easier for their patients to cover the costs.
  • It may not be enough: While most patients can benefit from CBT alone, some do not. This is particularly the case for persons with more complex or intense health concerns. In these cases, CBT is accompanied by medications or other forms of therapy.
  • Negative and irrational aren’t always the same: Cognitive-behavioral therapy puts negative conceptions on the same shelf as irrational beliefs about oneself. They are not necessarily the same, though. If a patient has undergone abuse in childhood and their experience contributed to a mental health problem, later on, their negative self-conceptions aren’t irrational. They stem from real experience. In these cases, common CBT techniques may not resolve the underlying problem. It’s down to the therapist and the approach they utilize.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the most effective therapy?

Yes, cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective therapy available at the moment. A paper from Frontiers in Psychiatry reported that cognitive-behavioral therapy dominates the international guidelines for psychosocial treatments. In fact, it is a first-line treatment for many mental health problems. For that reason, cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered the gold standard in the field of psychotherapy.

A study from Clinical Psychology Review found that cognitive-behavioral therapy was far superior to other therapies for patients with anxiety or depression. 

Plus, Cognitive Therapy and Research published a study that showed that CBT exhibited higher response rates than other forms of therapy. However, scientists emphasized the importance of further research on this subject and for long-term impact. 

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