By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is essentially a form of psychotherapy or counselling that may benefit people with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder. This form of therapy cannot cure mental health problems but can help an individual to cope with the symptoms in a more positive way. The therapy also helps individuals to modify their thought patterns and behaviour in a way that helps them lead a life that is as normal as possible.
Indications for the use of CBT
Certain mental disorders seem to benefit from CBT. These include:
Anxiety and panic disorders
Post traumatic stress disorder
Substance abuse problems
Phobias (including agoraphobia and social phobia)
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Individuals suffering from long-term, debilitating medical conditions such as arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia may also find that CBT can help them to cope with the difficulties brought about by the illness.
Mechanism of Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy aims at changing the way a person thinks (hence "cognitive") and his or her behaviour in response to those thoughts.
Unlike other forms of counselling, CBT does not focus on a person's past experiences that may have contributed to a condition, but rather on present symptoms of the condition that are causing issues on a day-to-day basis.
One of the basic tenets of CBT is breaking down problems into smaller parts and taking time to analyze each one, as the negative impact of continued problems is the main target of this therapy. Therapists therefore aim to help an individual focus on positive aspects and break down the negative cycles of thinking. For example, in the case of anxiety disorders, CBT helps individuals analyze the factors that make them anxious and fearful and then make those factors more tolerable.
Therapy sessions are usually scheduled for one to two hours once a week or fortnight. Around six weeks to six months of CBT is recommended for most conditions. The severity of the condition CBT has been prescribed for determines the frequency and duration of sessions.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Oct 1, 2013