CBT is a type of psychotherapy that has been scientifically tested and found to be effective for many different disorders. In contrast to other forms of psychotherapy, CBT is generally more present-focused, time-limited, and goal-oriented. In addition, it emphasizes learning and practicing specific skills that can be used to effectively manage difficult situations and emotions. These skills usually involve identifying and understanding the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and modifying patterns that can keep us feeling stuck.
Cognitive techniques: Most of us have beliefs, expectations, and assumptions that help us understand ourselves, other people, and the world in general. These "cognitions" have a reciprocal relationship with our behaviors and feelings -- they can influence what we do and how we feel as well as can be influenced by what we do and how we feel. Many times, our cognitions serve us well. However, sometimes they can contribute to maladaptive patterns that can lead to negative feelings (ie, sadness, anxiety) and unhelpful behaviors (ie, isolation). In CBT, we try to identify these thoughts and modify them in a way that enables us to be more effective in our day-to-day lives.
Behavioral techniques: We all engage in a variety of coping strategies, including specific behaviors, to help us deal with challenging situations. Often these strategies are effective in some situations, but are ineffective in other situations. In CBT, we will help you identify positive and adaptive coping strategies, while also identifying and modifying maladaptive behaviors that might be interfering with your treatment goals. We use a variety of behavioral strategies to target common presenting concerns.
How CBT may be applied to common problems
Anxiety: Many times, people engage in avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding anxiety provoking situations, as a way of reducing negative feelings. Avoidance serves an important function by providing short-term relief from uncomfortable feelings. Unfortunately, in the long term, avoidance can lead to negative consequences such as problems at work, conflict in relationships, and isolation. Additionally, avoidance can make our problems worse by reinforcing the association we have between particular situations or behaviors and negative feelings. Over time, many people with anxiety report that the more they avoid situations that trigger anxiety, the more anxious they start to feel. In treatment, we will identify avoidance behaviors that may be keeping you stuck in this negative cycle, and will work together to modify these behaviors in a gradual and supportive fashion. In addition to behavioral modification, we will also work with you to identify and modify thoughts that might be maintaining your anxiety. We will teach you strategies for coping with anxiety provoking thoughts and for reducing your anxiety so that you can enjoy your life more fully.
Depression: People who are feeling depressed often find that they don't enjoy the same activities they used to enjoy, and that getting through the day can be a struggle. Often, depressed thoughts lead people to depressed behaviors, which can include staying at home most of the day, avoiding social contact, and avoiding movement. While these behaviors might seem like the best or only course of action in the moment, in the long term such behaviors perpetuate the cycle of depression. To treat depression using behavioral strategies, we will help you to identify behaviors that can improve your mood and help you feel less depressed. We will work with you to set activity goals that feel manageable and rewarding. We will also use cognitive techniques to modify thoughts that might be contributing to your depression. We will teach you strategies for modifying negative thoughts that keep you feeling stuck and depressed.
Insomnia: People with insomnia often develop a variety of compensatory behaviors to help them improve their sleep. Some of these behaviors are ineffective for improving sleep, and might actually make people less likely to get a good night's sleep. We will provide you with information about concrete behaviors you can modify to improve the quality and length of your sleep. We will work with you to identify small and manageable changes that you can make to your routine to help you sleep better. We will also identify any inaccurate or anxiety provoking beliefs you might have about sleep and work to modify those to reduce your anxiety about falling and staying asleep.
Other Evidence-Based Treatments
In addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Drs. Gordon and Kagan are also trained in other evidence-based approaches to psychotherapy. Click here to learn more about these other approaches that Drs. Gordon and Kagan integrate into treatment.