Many people have the false impression that psychotherapy always involves years of tedious exploration of the subconscious mind in order to get to the root of whatever ails them. In the movie Pretty Woman, Richard Gere\u2019s character somewhat jokingly alludes to this tedious process when he recalls how it took him 10 years of therapy to realize that he was angry at this mother. Although long-term, intensive therapy definitely has its place, not everyone can - nor wants to - invest the substantial time and money involved in such an approach. Fortunately, there are other types of therapy that are more practical, goal-oriented, and short term \u2013 and, many would argue \u2013 more effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one such approach to treating a vast array of common life problems and diagnosable mental health disorders. Origin of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Back in the 1960\u2019s, renowned psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck made some profound observations while working with his patients. He realized that they were engaging in self-talk \u2013 the internal dialogue we all have with ourselves as we evaluate and process what\u2019s going on in any given moment, as well as when we contemplate upcoming situations. For example, the internal dialogue of a depressed therapy client might go something like this: \u201cThis whole therapy process is pointless; my life doesn\u2019t work and it never will. No one can help me. I\u2019d be better off dead.\u201d As you can imagine, such bleak, hopeless thoughts would make anyone feel more depressed than ever. Beck also noted that his therapy clients held deeply ingrained (and distorted) beliefs \u2013 \u201ccore beliefs\u201d \u2013 that played a major role in how they viewed themselves, other people, their experiences in life, and their future. Negative, distorted, or irrational core beliefs fueled their depression, anxiety, and other troubling emotions. For example, a fairly common core belief of individuals who struggle with depression is \u201cI\u2019m unlovable\u201d. Those who battle anxiety often have the deeply ingrained core belief that \u201cI can\u2019t handle it\u201d \u2013 with \u201cit\u201d referring to the various scary \u201cwhat if\u2019s\u201d that constantly play out in their imagination. This powerful connection between people\u2019s internal dialogue and their emotions is the cornerstone of Beck\u2019s \u201cCognitive Therapy\u201d. The \u201ccognitive\u201d aspect refers to the emphasis on the role of thoughts and beliefs. The \u201cbehavioral\u201d aspect of \u201cCognitive Behavioral Therapy\u201d (CBT for short) refers to the elements of behavioral therapy that are often used as part of the overall treatment approach.\u00a0\u00a0 CBT helps people identify and change their unhealthy thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to ones that empower them while eliciting more positive, healthy emotions. Automatic Thoughts and Thinking Errors Beck coined the clinical term \u201cautomatic thoughts\u201d to refer to the emotionally-laden, habitual thoughts of his patients. These thoughts, which tend to be absolute, unrealistic, and exaggerated, are often triggered by situations. In the earlier example of the depressed patient, \u201cit\u2019s pointless\u201d (and similar statements, such as \u201cwhy bother \u2013 nothing ever works\u201d) is one of his automatic thoughts whenever he\u2019s presented with an opportunity. On any given day, various statements of futility may pop into his mind at least a hundred times. As a result, he feels hopeless, unmotivated, and apathetic. He gives up before ever trying, which, of course, reinforces his sense of futility because nothing ever seems to change for the better. In CBT, one of the goals is to help individuals become aware of their automatic thoughts. They can then stop the thought in its tracks, refute it, and change the direction of their thinking to something more positive and empowering. For example, if one of your automatic thoughts is that you always fail no matter how hard you try, CBT can help you 1) identify the thought, 2) challenge it (e.g. by making a list of all your successes in life so you can refute the thought) and 3) change it to something more helpful and empowering (e.g. \u201cI don\u2019t always fail; I\u2019ve had many successes in my life\u201d, or \u201cIt\u2019s okay if I fail; I\u2019ll learn from it and do better next time\u201d). Often, the automatic thoughts of individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and other issues involve \u201cthinking errors\u201d or \u201ccognitive distortions\u201d. There are several different types of thinking errors. Some of the most common include: \u201cShould\u201d or \u201cought\u201d statements \u2013 These refer to the inflexible rules and unrealistic expectations people have for themselves or others, such as \u201cI should be able to\u2026\u201d or \u201cThey should always\u2026\u201d Should statements trigger feelings of regret, resentment, anger, or disappointment. CBT can help you recognize that you can\u2019t control everything, and would be better served by thinking in terms of \u201cI would like to be able to\u2026\u201d or \u201cI am grateful when people\u2026\u201d Emotional reasoning \u2013 This refers to assuming that something is true or valid based on how you feel. For example, \u201cI feel worthless, so I must be worthless\u201d. Just because you feel worthless, doesn\u2019t mean you are. A CBT therapist would All-or-Nothing \/ Black and White Thinking \u2013 This type of thinking error involves the use of absolutes and extremes, such as \u201calways\u201d, \u201ceveryone\u201d, and \u201cnever\u201d. There is no allowance for exceptions, a middle ground, or shades of gray. CBT helps you identify and challenge these extremes, and change them to more realistic statements.\u00a0\u00a0 For example, \u201cNothing ever works out\u201d becomes \u201cSometimes (or often) things do work out\u201d. Jumping to Conclusions \u2013 People prone to depression and anxiety are especially good at assuming the worst. And when they do, it quickly elicits all sorts of negative emotions. For example, if your date calls to cancel your plans due to an \u201cemergency\u201d, you assume that he or she is making an excuse and doesn\u2019t really want to get together. CBT will help you learn to give others the benefit of the doubt and consider other possibilities when you don\u2019t have all the facts. Disqualifying the Positive \u2013 This involves discounting, minimizing, or rejecting the validity of positive experiences (the classic, \u201cYes, but\u2026\u201d or \u201cThat doesn\u2019t count\u2026\u201d) and focusing only on the negative ones. Other thinking errors include: Labeling \/ mislabeling \u2013 \u201cI\u2019m a failure\u201d or \u201cThey\u2019re all much smarter than me\u201d Magnifying or minimizing \u2013 Blowing something out of proportion or downplaying something positive Blaming \u2013 Blaming others for your problems or negative feelings, or blaming yourself for most, if not everything, negative in your life Personalizing \u2013 Assuming someone\u2019s hurtful words or actions are directed at you when they\u2019re not, or taking personal blame for something bad that happens that had nothing to do with you Filtering \u2013 Focusing on anything negative in a situation, while ignoring or discounting all the positive aspects of it One of the great things about CBT is that once you learn how to identify and change negative thought patterns, thinking errors, and irrational core beliefs to ones that are more realistic, empowering, and rational, you\u2019ve got an invaluable tool that you can use throughout your life. It can help you cope more effectively with negative emotions, stress, interpersonal conflicts, and other challenges that will inevitably come up from time to time.