Cognitive Therapies

Cognitive therapies are psychological techniques based on neuroscience principles. These include learning theory and cognitive-behavioral theory. Cognitive therapies deal with how behavior is learned and how cognitive-behavior links are established. Cognitive therapies help patients un-learn maladaptive thoughts and behaviors and learn new more functional thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive therapies address a wide range of psychological problems from depression and anxiety to low self-esteem and demotivation.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy and one of the most commonly used methods for treating various mental health issues. CBT addresses negative patterns in the way we think and helps overcome dysfunctional thoughts, behaviour, and emotions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short to medium-term psychological treatment.

It is pragmatic and goal-oriented to provide individuals with long-term skills and keep them healthy. The focus of CBT is mostly in the here and now and helps people to look at how they interpret and evaluate what is happening around and inside them and how these perceptions affect their cognitions/emotions/behaviours. Childhood experiences might also be reviewed to identify and better understand repetitive patterns in individual behaviours.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy understands that the way people feel is linked to the way they think about a situation and themselves and not simply the nature of the situation itself. People learn overtime to think of themselves and their situation in a certain way. Sometimes this can lead to negative thinking patterns like those associated with depression and anxiety. Those could also include critical thoughts about self (self-criticism – e.g. I am no good, Nobody likes me, etc.), about the world (general negativity – e.g. life is a struggle, etc), and about our future (hopelessness – e.g. I will never succeed, I will happen again, It will be a disaster, etc.). These negative thought patterns can maintain a depressed mood and lead to negative anticipation of all life events.

How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work?

In CBT you learn to identify and challenge the thoughts, attitudes, core beliefs related to your issue. CBT is a holistic and pragmatic approach and will support you in understanding also your emotional life and behaviours. The therapist will work with you on setting realistic and measurable goals and will enhance you with a set of coping strategies.

The course usually lasts between 6 weeks to 3 months and depends on the type of problem you have. The therapist will discuss with you what issues you want to deal with in the short, medium, and long term.  Normally you will have a 50-minute session once a week. Your therapist will give you some useful exercises and suggest coping strategies for you to try between the sessions. You will then discuss how you got on during the week in your next session.

How effective is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is recommended as an evidence-based treatment for efficacy with anxiety, depression, panic, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other difficulties. CBT is the most effective psychological treatment for mild to severe depression and can be as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression. Read more here.

What conditions can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treat?

CBT is an effective treatment for many psychological conditions, including mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder; anxiety disorders including phobias, panic disorder, social phobia, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder; body disorder; substance use disorders (i.e., smoking, alcohol and other drugs). It can be effective to reduce and manage symptoms of psychosis when used in conjunction with drug treatments. It can also be effective with sexual and relationship problems; insomnia; chronic fatigue syndrome; chronic (persistent) pain and long-standing interpersonal problems.

Emotional Regulation Therapy (ERT)

Emotional Regulation Therapy (ERT) aims at teaching patients to regulate their emotions after suffering a brain injury or illness that resulted in impairment of their emotional functioning.

Emotional Regulation Therapy runs over a number of sessions (depending on patient progress). Patients are encouraged to engage in activities to re-learn the skills associated with emotional regulation. Patient progress is monitored throughout.

Addiction Behavior Therapy (ABT)

Addiction Behavior Therapy (ABT) is based on behavior learning principles where substance-related stimulus-reward neural pathways are established in the brain. Through these pathways, a patient is conditioned to present with substance-seeking behavior which maintains the addiction cycle.

Addiction Behavior Therapy (ABT) aims at guiding a patient through a process of un-learning addiction behaviors and to dis-associate associated addiction-related substance-seeking behavior stimuli.

Addiction Behavior Therapy (ABT) runs over several sessions with monthly and six-monthly follow-ups. A patient’s progress is monitored throughout the duration of therapy.

Dr JC Coetzee is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Couples Therapy, Teen Counselling in South Africa.