Cognitive behavioural therapy is a common type of psychological treatment that is useful in treating a number of different psychological problems.
CBT works by changing behaviours and thoughts that maintain a person’s difficulties. For example, tackling negative thoughts in depression or creating exposures for anxiety disorders.
This article discusses seven unique benefits of choosing CBT as your treatment of choice when engaging in therapy.
1. CBT is evidence-based
The bottom line is we know CBT works. Perhaps not for everyone – but as a whole, there is substantial research to suggests that CBT is effective for treating many different psychological challenges and disorders.
For example, CBT has been studied in depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger, chronic pain, psychosis, eating disorders, substance use, among other conditions.
One criticism of the fact that CBT has the most research is because the structure of CBT allows itself to be easily studied. On the other hand, more elusive therapies, such as existential therapy and humanistic therapy, may be harder to manualize and therefore study empirically.
That being said, CBT is definitely an evidence-based treatment that is well-supported by research.
2. CBT is collaborative
When working with your CBT therapist, you should always feel heard and that your opinions and personal goals for treatment matter. You should never feel bulldozed or feel completely directed in how therapy needs to go.
You are the expert in yourself and the therapist has expertise in a treating a specific disorder using a CBT framework. Both are essential in navigating therapy. The collaborative nature of therapy can often feel empowering and validating.
3. CBT is goal-oriented
In the first session, the therapist will work with you to come up with specific goals that you want out of therapy.
For example, you may have specific goals to reduce anxiety or fall asleep quicker in cases of insomnia.
Based on these goals, the therapist will help you develop SMART goals (specific and measurable smaller goals) to get you to your end journey. The therapist will also help to tackle barriers that may come up along the way.
One clear benefit of having specific goals is that it allows the therapy to not get side-tracked and both you and the therapist have a clear idea in what you are working towards.
4. CBT is actionable
There’s a saying in CBT that “what you put into it is what you get out of it”.
Therapy doesn’t exist within a vacuum in a 45 minute session in a therapist office. Oftentimes, patients are asked to practice the skills they have learned to work on tackling thoughts or changing behaviours to break out of a vicious cycle that contributes to their problems.
Therefore, therapists will provide patients with relevant and useful strategies that patients can use to work on their challenges. It’s like having a toolkit with a bunch of different therapeutic skills that you can pull from to best handle things that come up.
5. CBT is individualized
Although many CBT treatments are manualized, there is significant room for flexibility based on the needs of the patient.
There is a concept called case formulation, which is a fancy term when therapists are gathering information and making hypotheses about what could be causing difficulties in a patient‘s life and maintaining their problem.
Through this formulation, decisions can be made about what recommendations could be most effective. Of course, hypotheses can change as more data comes up, so the therapist will be flexible when something isn’t working.
6. CBT is structured
As discussed, the structured format of CBT (e.g., setting an agenda, providing education, homework planning, etc.) helps to ensure that there is always a roadmap in treatment.
This structured approach can be anxiety-relieving for patients who prefer having a plan. If interested, here’s a post on how the first session might go in CBT therapy!
7. CBT is time-limited
Finally, CBT is time-limited: most treatments start with the end in mind and the therapist and patient decide on a specific number of sessions for therapy.
A time-limited approach can be helpful in ensuring that sessions stay on course and productive. Moreover, the skills-oriented and time-limited approach lets patients work towards becoming their own therapist.
By becoming their own therapist, patients do not have to rely on their therapist as a crutch and can manage challenges that come up in the future!