Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Mental health therapists are as diverse as the fish in the sea. For example, a practicing mental health therapist could be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a licensed mental health therapist (LMHT), a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), or a psychologist with a doctorate in counseling or clinical psychology (PhD). One only needs to pull up a list of the mental health therapists on their insurance panel to see the wide assortment of educational backgrounds and credentials.
In addition to that, therapists use different treatment approaches in their practice. There are a wide range of theoretical orientations in treating those with mental disorders, such as dialectical behavioral therapy, compassion-focused therapy and humanistic therapy. The list goes on!
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of these approaches, and it entails examining the relationship of emotions, behaviors and thoughts. The rationale behind CBT is that a person's negative thoughts produce negative emotions and behavior; if a client is able to see this link, they can start replacing negative ways of thinking with more positive ones.
For example, Lee-Lei, age 10, suffers from low self esteem.
- Lee-Lei's thoughts: 'I am so ugly.' 'Nobody would ever want to be my friend.' 'I'm stupid.'
- Lee-Lei's resulting emotions: shame, embarrassment, anxiety, sadness
- Lee-Lei's resulting behaviors: avoidance of social interaction (for instance, isolating herself on the playground) leading to even more sadness and feelings of depression
A counselor who uses CBT as their treatment method would help Lee-Lei change her negative thoughts, which would in turn ameliorate her feelings of sadness and depression.
CBT is a popular and widespread treatment approach because it produces results! It is also evidence-based.
What Is Evidence-Based Practice?
Evidence-based practice (EBP) , simply stated, is practice that has been proven to actually work and efficiently produce desired results. In mental health, this means that the theoretical orientation in use has been tested in research experiments and studied in real world settings. This research, in turn, has produced evidence that it is successful in producing desired results and outcomes for clients with mental health disorders.
EBP therapy approaches are considered 'Best Practice' and are the recommended treatment methods by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Associations.
Reasons CBT Is an Evidence-Based Practice
CBT is evidence-based for a variety of reasons.
First of all, part of evidence-based therapy is gathering data and evidence throughout a client's treatment; this, in turn, can prove that the therapy is really working. Mental health therapists will monitor negative emotions and behavior by doing logs or charts to make sure that they are decreasing as the therapy progresses.
For example, two techniques in CBT are journaling and homework. A major reason that these are helpful techniques is that they can gather evidence of a client's behavior when they are not in session. If a client journals and logs their negative behavior over the time period they are in therapy, the therapist would have objective evidence that the client's negative behaviors were indeed decreasing, meaning that the treatment was working.
Second, CBT is goal-oriented in nature. When a therapist meets with a client at the beginning of CBT treatment, goals are established. Goals in CBT are very clear and objective; this means that they can be measured.
For example, Jane is receiving CBT for a fast food addiction. Jane is obese, so she is receiving mental health therapy to replace unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones. The ultimate goal is very measurable: zero visits to a fast food restaurant in a span of a week. The therapist can tell whether or not CBT is working if the number of times Jane visits a fast food restaurant (the 'evidence') is decreasing on a weekly basis.
Finally, CBT is grounded in research. There are hundreds of research studies that have been carried out to prove the effectiveness of CBT techniques on remedying a variety of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and low self-esteem.
For example, a meta-analysis of 16 different research studies that tested the efficacy of CBT found that there was a considerable effect size of CBT for disorders like depression, anxiety, certain phobias and PTSD. This meta-analysis also found that within these 16 different research studies, the overall consensus that CBT was slightly more effective than psychotropic medications in treatment of adult depression. There is a lot of evidence supporting the value, benefits and power of CBT in treatment of various mental health disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) explores the relationship of a person's thoughts, emotions and behavior. It seeks to tackle negative thoughts and beliefs and replace them with positive thoughts and beliefs. This, in turn, will improve emotions and behaviors. Evidence-based practice (EBP) is practice that has been proven to work through a practitioner's past experience and numerous evidence-based research studies that demonstrate effectiveness.
CBT is an evidence-based practice because
1. Therapists seek to find evidence that their client's behaviors are being improved by CBT through the course of therapy via chart and data analysis.
2. It has clear and objective goals that can be measured to provide evidence of efficacy.
3. It's grounded in research, proven time and time again that it is indeed effective.
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