When addressing depression, anxiety, and similar mental health issues, a therapist’s goal may be to identify the behaviors a client regularly engages in (or avoids) that may contribute to their mental and emotional health struggles. Theoretically, by learning to change these behaviors, someone may manage or even escape conditions ranging from a panic disorder to obsessive compulsive disorder.
This idea is the basis of behavioral therapy. However, behavioral therapy is actually a general term for a few common approaches to mental health treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is among the most popular. It may offer advantages that simple behavioral therapy alone does not offer.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
The basic focus of behavioral therapy is an individual’s actions. Again, if someone changes how they act in their daily life, they may change how they feel.
CBT takes this a step further. It involves addressing both a person’s actions and their thoughts.
For example, perhaps someone is struggling with depression because every time they experience a setback in life, such as loss of a job, they tend to catastrophize, treating what may be a normal obstacle as an “end of the world” scenario. This pattern of thinking prevents them from taking advantage of opportunities that may improve their situation. They’re so focused on what could go wrong that they don’t consider the possibility that anything could go right.
Through CBT, this individual could learn to recognize their catastrophic thinking as unreasonable and unrealistic. In turn, this may yield a change in their self-defeating behaviors.
CBT Offers Benefits Mere Behavioral Therapy May Not Offer
There are various reasons CBT may be more effective than behavioral therapy by itself. They include the following:
- Identifying and addressing the cause of problematic behaviors: Changing a learned behavior can be difficult for many reasons. When a person is accustomed to behaving a certain way, consciously shifting their behaviors may require immense effort. Through CBT, however, an individual could address the thought patterns that cause them to behave in a particular way. Once someone identifies and addresses the cause of a problematic behavior, changing the behavior itself may become easier.
- Managing emotions: The troublesome thoughts that CBT helps an individual identify and correct are the types of thoughts that can also trigger unpleasant emotions, such as anger, shame, etc. Just as addressing unreasonable thoughts can change a person’s behavior, addressing such thoughts could help them exercise greater control over their emotions.
- Developing long-term strategies: Someone in need of therapy should continue working with their therapist for as long as necessary. It’s not wise to quit therapy too soon. However, most people may not wish to remain in therapy forever. This is another potential benefit CBT offers. Often, through this form of therapy, an individual learns strategies to identify their self-defeating thought patterns without the guidance of a therapist. This can allow them to continue proactively addressing any struggles they may experience in the future after therapy has ended.
Be aware that many in the psychotherapy field consider CBT to be the “gold standard” among common treatment approaches. This is in no small part due to the fact that research consistently indicates CBT has a high success rate, particularly when compared to other types of therapy.
That said, it’s important to remember that everyone is unique. The ideal form of therapy for one person may not necessarily be right for someone else.
This highlights the importance of working with a qualified therapist when you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, and other such conditions. A professional can assess your needs and determine what would be the right approach to therapy for you.
Discuss Behavioral Therapy With an Expert
At South County Psychiatry, with locations in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, our goal is to ensure we provide our clients with therapy designed to serve their specific needs. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us online today.