Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a group of flexible and individualized psychological interventions, based on research evidence. They are both time efficient and goal-oriented. At the international level, CBT is considered the gold standard in the psychotherapy field. A typical CBT session follows a general structure, in which personalized objectives are established based on the collaborative relationship between therapist and patient.
Psychotherapy implies alternating between 2 main approaches:
The first approach implies exploring personality traits and recurrent patters in relationships (including „here and now”, in the therapeutic one), along with tying them to past experiences. Let’s imagine that each of us writes an autobiography; because many chapters of our life could be defined by a recurring theme - for some of us, it would be abandonment; for others, self-sacrifice and being exploited by others. Many times, we are not conscious of these patterns and psychotherapy reflection helps us identify and work with them.
The approach also implies addressing and expressing uncomfortable emotions, like envy, shame and anger. The idea is to be more in contact with our needs, experiences and our past, to better understand how we function and what drives us now.
The second approach is summed up in the following quote: „Lord, give me the serenity to accept things that I cannot change [vs. resentment and bitterness], the courage to change things that I can change [vs. fear and giving up] and the wisdom to tell them apart.”
Therapy involves exploring the psychological mechanisms underlying our emotions and behaviors (i.e., predispositions, triggers and maintaining factors), following up with discussions on how to improve quality of life, relationship satisfaction and efficient functioning on a daily basis.
To this end, we will discuss a series of skills, which are a set of behaviors that increase our level of adaptation to our daily life. Among those we can count:
Together we will develop these skills by applying cognitive behavioral principles, focusing on our thinking style (e.g., analyzing and adjusting the thoughts that are not helping us) and on specific behaviors (e.g., improving the frequency of healthy habits). The objective is for each one of us to become our own personal therapist.
It is important to practice between sessions – during the sessions, we nurture our skills, so that we can apply them in our daily life in the places where we are dealing with practical and emotional challenges. It is like practicing driving in the simulator, without taking the car to the street yet.
To put things into perspective – assuming we sleep aproximately 8h/night, 1h of weekly therapy means even less than 1% of our waking hours during the course of a week. It is essential to practice especially between sessions. That is why it is important to collaboratively develop individualized action plans each session.
Moreover, it takes time. For example, in the case of a depressive episode, the intervention guidelines recommend between 12 and 16 sessions. Depending on the complexity and the number of objectives, the duration can vary realistically between 3 and 12 months (i.e., 12-50 sessions).
Just like no one can build muscle mass in just one month of going to the gym, neither can one change their mental habits and behaviors, developed in the course of years, only in a few weeks. Therapy progress will not be linear and miraculous results will not appear in a short time.
You can connect with Victor on the I’m Fine platform for choosing an online therapist.