The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors. When I say thoughts, I mean our own self talk. Self talk is what we say to ourselves. An example of negative self talk is when someone says to themselves, I am no good. I am worthless. On the other hand, an example of positive self talk may be, I look awesome in this outfit! So, as a recap… our thoughts/self talk impacts our feelings and behaviors.
It really makes sense when you think about it. If you are beating yourself up and saying things like, I am worthless, then that will probably drag you down and make you feel sad or depressed. While, if you are thinking, I look awesome in this outfit, you are probably feeling pretty happy, confident, and ready to take on the world! I also mentioned how CBT focuses on how our thoughts affect our behaviors. Negative self talk has the potential to lead to unhealthy coping skills or behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol, isolation, and self-harm. Positive thoughts typically lead to positive and healthy behaviors.
It is important to note that CBT dismisses external factors such as events, situations, and people as the cause for feelings and behaviors. For example, a cognitive behavioral therapist would not agree with the statement, “I am sad because Johnny broke up with me.” The premise, again, is that our thoughts cause our feelings, not external factors. So, in this case a therapist would explore self talk to help the client determine what negative thoughts were impacting these feelings.
Now understanding the meaning of CBT, how do I use this in sessions? First, we work collaboratively to explore the presenting issues, or troubling situation, that brought you into therapy. During this process I teach you to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about this situation. Next, we identify inaccurate or negative thinking, and I help to release these negative thoughts. I teach you to recognize patterns of thinking that could be contributing to your situation. Finally, I gently challenge your thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs, and teach you to replace these with more healthy and balanced thoughts.
It is an enlightening and enriching process. It is very freeing when clients realize that they have control over their feelings by managing their thought process. If you are interested in learning more, or have any questions, please contact me today and I will be happy to help!