What Is CBT and How Does It Treat Depression?
What Is CBT?
CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy. It is a structured form of psychotherapy that counselors and other mental health professionals use to help clients with various mental health disorders. CBT techniques are usually time-limited, which means they can be used in a single session and still have a powerful beneficial effect. Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered a “present-focused” approach that helps clients focus on the here and now.
When a therapist uses CBT techniques to help a client, she will often ask the client to pay attention to specific thought processes, emotions and reactions that occur in the moment. This helps the client recognize unhealthy ways of thinking. Once these problematic thoughts, assumptions, associations or reactions are identified, the client and therapist can begin working on developing new ways of dealing with them.
People tend to act based on their thoughts, emotions and past life experiences. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps clients to recognize where their ways of thinking may not be rational or healthy, and then to change the way they behave in the world and with other people to live happier, healthier lives. CBT techniques can be used with a wide range of mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and more. However, it is most commonly used to treat depression.
How Does CBT Treat Depression?
When a counselor or therapist uses CBT techniques with a client who is suffering from depression, the therapist helps the client identify harmful ways of thinking. When a person experiences depression, it is common for him to feel hopeless, helpless, guilty or unworthy of good things and relationships. A therapist will use CBT techniques to help the person identify and analyze these thought patterns and replace them with more optimistic and healthy thoughts.
Depression also causes people to feel worthless or without direction in life. Cognitive behavioral therapy uses goal-setting techniques to help clients feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose as they progress.
Though the process may seem simple, research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is just as effective at treating major depression as medication. In fact, individuals who suffer from depression and undergo cognitive behavioral therapy are less likely to relapse into a depressive state than individuals who are treated with antidepressants.
If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, talk to a mental health professional about whether cognitive behavioral therapy may be right for you.
Cully, J. A. & Teten, A. L. (2008). A Therapist’s Guide to Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Houston: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.mirecc.va.gov/visn16/docs/therapists_guide_to_brief_cbtmanual.pdf
DeRubeis, R. J., Siegle, G. J. & Hollon, S. D. (2008). Cognitive therapy vs. medications for depression: Treatment outcomes and neural mechanisms. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(10), 788-796. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748674/
Wenzel, A., Brown, G. K. & Karlin, B. E. (2011). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression in Veterans and Military Servicemembers: Therapist Manual. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.mirecc.va.gov/docs/cbt-d_manual_depression.pdf