Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

This is a therapeutic approach based in the here and now that I find particularly useful for anxiety disorders. Often the therapist assigns homework to help the client better observe his or her thoughts, feelings, and physical responses (such as sweaty palms) and the context in which they occur. The client learns strategies to challenge and change thoughts and behaviors with the goal of calming emotions and the body. For instance, a person might notice when she feels sweaty palms and rapid heartbeat, that she thinks things like, “I can’t stand this,” or “I feel like I’ll die.” The therapist helps the client to see that though the situation is unpleasant, these thoughts about it are distorted. The client develops new thoughts to focus on, such as, “This is unpleasant, but it will be over soon.” This approach, cognitive restructuring, helps bring down the level of anxiety.

In my work I also teach relaxation techniques that help people relax their bodies when they become anxious. Another strategy involves confronting situations that make one anxious and avoiding the usual responses, such as panicking and leaving the scene. For instance, a person who is fearful being in a store on her own would prepare with relaxation techniques, positive self talk, and visualization, and then try standing in a store and bringing down her anxiety. This is called exposure and response prevention.

I would be pleased to talk to you more about this type of treatment.