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What is CBT?

Dr. Joti Samra

June 30, 2020

Resiliency

Most people have heard of CBT therapy, but how many really know what it is? Don’t worry if you don’t, it’s one of those things that’s fairly challenging to describe. So, here I am going to break it down for you. I will discuss cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT therapy), what it is and how it’s techniques can be used in our day to day lives.

So – WHAT IS CBT? 

CBT is a talk-therapy that works on changing or modifying our emotions – or things that create distress – by focusing on our cognitions or thoughts (C) and our behaviour (B). Emotions are often hard to change in the moment. However, with practice, we can get good at changing our behaviours and thoughts, even when emotions are strong.

CBT is not about brainwashing or rewiring our thinking. It’s also not about positive or excessively optimistic thinking. It’s about realistic thinking.

When we’re stressed, anxious or depressed we tend to do a number of predictable things in terms of the way we think. Some of these include:

  • Thinking more negatively about ourselves
  • Being more likely to perceive negative intent from others
  • Having negative and hopeless thoughts about the future 
  • Overestimating the probability of bad things happening 
  • Catastrophizing how bad things would be if they were to happen

CBT helps us revise and refine our thoughts so they’re more accurate, and helps us draw awareness toward our behaviour so that we aren’t inadvertently reinforcing those thoughts.

3 ways to incorporate CBT techniques into your daily life

1 Increase awareness of thoughts now. Research says we have tens of thousands of thoughts a day – and most are automatic. This works well otherwise we’d be in sensory overload – but not so well if we have unhealthy or unhelpful ways of thinking. If the unhealthy or unhelpful ways of thinking become ingrained, they can have a powerful and negative impact on us. Becoming more aware of the thoughts we are having is the first step in changing them, or at least changing how we feel about or react to them.

2 Engage in the opposite action of what your natural urge is when stressed. This is a behavioural technique that is really helpful for changing our mood states. This is the case because our natural urges point us in the direction of short term coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily healthy in the long term. How does this work? 

  • When we are depressed we tend to isolate. The opposite action is to connect.
  • When we are anxious we tend to avoid. The opposite action is to approach.
  • When we are angry we tend to approach. The opposite action is to avoid.

3 Focus on things you can control – behaviour and thoughts – and keep in mind emotional changes will lag behind. 

Final Thoughts

There is a very strong evidence base on the benefits of CBT for dealing with a range of psychological health conditions – whether it’s general stress or a condition such as anxiety, depression, addiction, or disordered eating. If you think CBT may be helpful for you, I encourage you to read more about it – we have tons of free resources on our website.

Remember: Our thoughts matter. Our perception is our reality. Changing and revising & refining those thoughts can strongly impact how we feel.

Considering taking that first step today? Good for you, that’s a big step to take. You can easily start by contacting Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. & Associates today. A little more unsure? Or don’t feel like you have enough time? Consider virtual (online) counselling as an alternative to traditional online therapy. All of our associates are trained in cognitive behavioural therapy as well as other therapy methods. 

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