Very simply put, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works to address patterns of thoughts, that lead to patterns or feeling and behaving.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying as specifically as possible the problems that a client is having, examining the causes of these difficulties, and generating alternative approaches that break problematic cycles. All people, even those who are not encountering emotional distress, tend to think in ways that are subjective, filtering out a good deal of information about what is going on around them. This tendency to think subjectively becomes more extreme during periods of emotional turmoil, and can often can create or maintain anxiety and depression. For example, we may tend to overestimate the probability that negative events will occur, while underestimating our ability to cope with them.
We may also tend to blame ourselves for unwanted outcomes and yet feel that we have little control or ability to improve our situation. CBT challenges our thoughts about self, world, and future by collecting objective evidence to more clearly evaluate current beliefs. We first practice becoming aware of negative thoughts (which are often automatic and almost subconscious in nature), and then we look at how to challenge them so that they do not deflate and work against us.
In many cases, CBT has been shown to be as effective or more effective than drug therapy or other approaches to psychotherapy.
Behaviorally, CBT seeks to reduce problematic behaviors (often avoidance and self-destructive behaviors) and to increase more adaptive choices. Often clients will start out “monitoring” problematic behaviors. This monitoring can inform both client and therapist about patterns of behavior and what factors maintain them. Surprising though it may sound, usually there are hidden reinforcements for problematic behavior-like temporary reductions in anxiety or increased support from other people. We will strive to understand the cycle and then to intervene, by replacing unwanted behaviors with more adaptive coping strategies.