How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Work?

by | Jan 27, 2023

You might have heard the term “cognitive behavioral therapy” before and wondered what it meant. Simply put, it’s one of the most important tools in a therapist’s arsenal to treat things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and many other concerns.

However, CBT is a useful tool for anyone, as it’s a great way to teach your brain to be a positive thinker rather than a critic. We thought we’d break down the process of CBT and how it can help you re-train your inner dialogue to be your advocate rather than your critic.

Identify a Repetitive Negative Inner Dialogue

That feeling of dread, anxiety, or depression that you’re feeling might seem like it lacks a source. However, if you really try to tune into your own brain, you might realize that a large source of your negative feelings is due to a repetitive, invasive thought.

Once you’ve found it, you’re that much closer to understanding why you sometimes feel the way you do. Go ahead and write the thought down, then try and reason why this thought bubbles up so often. Is there a particular stressor in your life?

Search for a Logical Fallacy Regarding the Thought

A large part of CBT is to think logically about your mental health, even to the extent where you might find yourself in “debate” with your inner dialogue. What does this mean? Whatever your repetitive thinking might be, we suggest you counter it with logic.

Are you finding yourself constantly repeating “I’m a failure” in your head? Think about the times you’ve succeeded. Surely, you’re not a failure—you’ve gotten this far, right?

Ask Yourself, What is the Point of This Thought?

Even the negative feeling we harbor is our brain’s response to trauma. Understand that even if your negative thinking makes you feel bad, it’s been put there as an attempt to protect you. Ask yourself the point of this thought: Are you protecting yourself from discomfort, maybe from past trauma? Understand that, somewhere in there, there is a defensive reason you’re feeling this way. Your brain is attempting to protect you, not punish you.

Give Your Inner Critic Something Else to Do

Think of your inner critic as a busybody. They never sleep; they’re always working for you, even if the work they achieve doesn’t feel useful. They are being critical of you because they are trying to protect or motivate you. Try to have a conversation with this pervasive part of you; acknowledge that it has your best interests in mind but that it might be going about it in the wrong way. Give it something else to do, like be your cheerleader.

Look for a More Positive Mantra

Repetitive thoughts aren’t all bad. We all have them. Sometimes, it’s best to simply try and replace one thought with another. If you find yourself thinking about the same negative thing over and over, then try and put the seeds of something more positive in that mental space. Instead of “I’m a failure,” try to repeat something healthier, like “I try really hard, no matter what.”

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat (Positivity)

If you manage to grasp some inner positivity, then repeat it until you’re blue in the face. Remember, it doesn’t matter if your inner dialogue is a busybody. It can certainly run wild—many of our brains are in constant overdrive. Yet, if it can work exhaustively on being your hype person, then that’s a win in our book.

Are you in need of outpatient mental health in Massachusetts? Reach out to us today.