Psychotherapy is the process that helps people understand and process their emotions, stress, trauma, and brings them closer to their hopes and aspirations. Psychotherapy allows people to find more clarity in life so that they can choose to exist in the world by making space for all their humanity.
Now, many types of psychotherapy are tailored to fit the needs and demands of the client. From art therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, queer affirmative therapy, family therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy, and many more. The kind of therapy chosen depends on the training of the therapist and the stories that the client brings to the therapist.
One of the most celebrated methods of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Abbreviated as CBT, it is one of the most effective therapy modalities suitable for anxiety, depression, phobia, addiction, panic attacks, anger as well as eating disorders.
How to know if you need therapy?
Before diving into the details of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is important to explore if you need therapy. If you have been wondering to check-in with a therapist for quite a while, here is a list for you:
- You have been feeling chronically distressed lately.
- You feel the need to talk to somebody who will offer a non-judgmental attitude and a safe space to just be.
- You have witnessed trauma or extremely distressing events recently. Or, if you have realized that you were subjected to trauma in the past.
- You are finding it difficult to cope with some new changes in life, interpersonally, intra-personally, or professionally.
- You want to address an issue that you are finding difficult to uncover and deconstruct.
- You notice some dysfunctional patterns in your work life and social life.
- You have been finding it difficult to stay in long term relationships.
- You are going through an identity crisis or having a difficulty in accepting yourself just the way you are.
- You belong to the margins and need a space to deconstruct the trauma done to your ancestors.
- You are having trouble staying connected with your partner or family members.
This list obviously does not capture all the reasons for what one may seek therapy. Honestly, you don’t need a specific reason to seek therapy. If you want access to a safe space where you can feel seen, validated, and empathized with – that’s enough reason for you to seek therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that aims at making visible to the client their negative thoughts and beliefs and change those destructive thought patterns into a more realistic and goal-oriented thought pattern.
The therapist takes a very active position when it comes to administering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is an extremely goal-focused approach that is structured and intensive. The client and the therapist clearly define their goals collaboratively and then work their way up by identifying the catastrophizing thoughts, mapping the consequences, disputing those negative thoughts, and then finding effective strategies and solutions to make their thought pattern more realistic and positive.
Among the many different strategies used by therapists when it comes to CBT, the ABC model is the most well-known.
What is the ABC Model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
The ABC Model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the strategies that facilitate the goal of identifying destructive thought patterns.
The basis of CBT lies in the fact that the external events in our environment do not cause us distress, rather our judgments and beliefs about those events cause us distress. To understand more, let’s take an easy example.
A student is feeling sad because they got bad marks in an exam.
Here, the event of scoring bad marks in the exam activated the belief that “I am worthless if I don’t score good marks in the exam.” This belief and judgment of the situation brought in the feeling of sadness in the life of the student.
Let’s look at the ABC model in relation to the example above. In the ABC Model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, A stands for Activating event, B is for Beliefs and C is for consequence because of holding the belief.
In the above example, the Activating event is scoring bad marks in the exam, the belief is “I am worthless if I don’t score good marks in the exam” and the consequence of holding that belief is feeling sad.
The ABC model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be applied to problems and issues that mainly arise out of cognitive distortions or faulty thinking patterns. For instance, in the above-mentioned example, the judgment of another student who scored low marks can be “I will have many opportunities to score better. I will do better next time.” This brings in the consequence of becoming motivated after a failure.
In issues like grief where there is no faulty thinking pattern, but a deep, complex, and intricate emotion to deal with – CBT may not be the best choice.
How does the ABC Model work?
The ABC Model works by identifying faulty thought patterns. During therapy, the therapist asks the client to record their negative thoughts, the beliefs behind those negative thoughts, and the consequence that followed that particular belief.
After this mapping, the therapist asks the client to check if the belief is disputable and if it is really accurate and if there are other ways to judge the same situation. The disputation of the negative thought becomes a very important part of CBT without which the treatment would stay incomplete.
After the disputation of thought, comes the effective solution – wherein the client replaces the destructive thinking pattern with realistic and positive thoughts. Slowly, and gradually, the client inculcates this habit of disputing negative thoughts and replacing them with realistic thinking.
To make sure that the process proceeds smoothly, the therapist might give the client some homework – like journaling or worksheets to fill where the client can record their intrusive thoughts and find ways to replace it with more realistic and positive beliefs.
Many such worksheets are available online and can be downloaded easily. Likewise, journaling is an effective strategy to process your thoughts and emotions. However, when these are done with the guidance of a therapist – these processes result in more productive and fruitful results.
P.S: Finding the right therapist and perfect therapy modality will take time and several tries but don’t forget that therapy is for everyone and it will surely lead to a more fulfilling life.