CBT helps us change the way we feel by learning to change thoughts.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Works

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a scientifically proven treatment modality for symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, sleep conditions, and more.

CBT has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant medications for individuals struggling with depression and may be even more effective than medication in relapse prevention. CBT helps people become aware of their negative thought patterns, learn coping skills to combat symptoms and experience life in a more rewarding manner.

It's not situations themselves that cause us to feel a certain way. Rather, it is our interpretation of situations and events that lead to our emotions. These interpretations are largely based on the thoughts (or cognitions) that occur within a stream of consciousness. (Scroll below to see the most common forms of cognitive distortions). Cognitions stem from underlying beliefs that are also known as schemas (explained below).

What are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive distortion is the psychological term that describes faulty thinking. Distorted cognitions are the ways that our brain misbehaves. Think of it as the naughty little lies that inaccurately influence us how to feel about a situation. All of us are prone to cognitive distortions from time to time. Some brains do it a little, whereas others do it a lot.

Common Cognitive Distortions

Look at this list below to see if you notice any of these distortions in your own thought process.

  • All or nothing thinking (aka black-or-white & polarized  thinking): looking at situations using extremes. Everyone must love me or no one does.

  • Overgeneralization: a single event is used to explain all events/over focusing on irrelevant factors. (I made a mistake, therefore I will fail).

  • Selective Abstraction: taking a detail out of context to draw a conclusion while ignoring other context.

  • Credence to unreliable sources: placing too much faith in unreliable information from someone or something that may not be 100% accurate.

  • Discounting the positive/Minimization: a positive event is viewed as a fluke and doesn’t count.

  • Magnification/Catastrophizing: a negative event and its importance are exaggerated. Is it the end of the world?

  • Jumping to conclusions: a thought is justified with little to no evidence to support it. Are you confusing a fact with an opinion/feeling?

  • Rationalization: defending against one’s true feelings and thoughts. (I’m not afraid; I just don’t want to go out).

  • Should, ought, must: Using words that are unrealistic and absolute.

  • Certainties: Thinking something is a certainty when in fact there is only a possibility.

  • Personalization/internalization: A negative event is directly linked to you. (It’s all my fault).

  • Magical Thinking: belief that thoughts or actions will directly influence and produce a specific outcome.

What are Schemas?

Schemas are underlying core beliefs that developed from past experiences. These beliefs are held as an absolute truth and may be either conscious or subconscious. Schemas will greatly influence the types of thoughts a person will have.

The more vulnerable someone is to emotional distress, the more schemas will maintain painful beliefs despite any evidence indicating these beliefs are not reflective of reality. For example, a person may view themselves very harshly due to a schema that states they are inadequate, unlovable, worthless, etc. In turn, the core belief will cause the person to evaluate situations in a distorted manner, ultimately reinforcing the schema.

The Role of Core Beliefs/Schemas in CBT

A real life example. The best way to understand schemas and core beliefs is through example. Let's say "Jack" was recently dumped by his girlfriend. Jack's girlfriend explained that she was breaking up with him because is moving and doesn't want a long-distance relationship. Although she says she cares about him, she thinks it's best that they end the relationship.

Jacks feels intensely heartbroken about the breakup (and these feelings are valid and understandable). Jack tries to understand more about why his girlfriend dumped him so his brain begins to create a story with additional information about why the breakup happened. His thoughts tell him that his girlfriend never actually cared about him and that she secretly hated him all along. He thinks about all his perceived flaws, that he isn't attractive enough, clever enough, or successful enough. He also thinks to himself that he will never meet anyone again and will remain single for the remainder of his life.

CBT In Action

Can you see the cognitive distortions in the above example? Jack is catastrophizing, jumping to conclusions, thinking in certainties, overgeneralizing, and personalizing. In CBT, Jack will learn how to become more aware of these cognitive distortions and challenge them to create more accurate and emotionally neutral thoughts. Although the concept of restructuring thought patterns is relatively simple, it's far from easy.

If Jack has a difficult time buying into the fact that his thoughts are extreme judgements that are likely inaccurate and ineffective, his CBT therapist will explore the core beliefs at the root of his thoughts. Through therapy, Jack will likely learn that he has a negative view of himself which is acting as jet fuel to his negative thought patterns. His therapist will help him explore this deeper and to correct not only his faulty thoughts but his faulty core beliefs as well.

If Jack actively participates in CBT, he will learn the skills to correct his thinking. CBT is very effective for many folks, therefore it is very likely that therapy will be successful in reducing the intensity of his distress and help him heal from the breakup. He will also likely be more resilient to stress in the future.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 
Shakespeare (Hamlet)

How to Challenge Cognitive Distortions

We correct faulty thinking with a process called cognitive restructuring. The skill of cognitive restructuring is taught by a CBT therapist in your counseling sessions. When challenging cognitive distortions, a common misconception is that you must replace negative thinking with positive thinking. This is an oversimplification of the process. Although corrected thinking tends to be more positive and less intense, the goal is more about making faulty thoughts more realistic and neutral. Here's how to practice cognitive restructuring:

  1. Bring your automatic thoughts into your awareness. Practice taking a 'time out' to observe your thoughts. Ask: "What am I thinking right now?" Then write it down in a thought journal.
  2. Ask yourself: "Is this thought justified by facts?" "Is this thought effective or beneficial?" 
  3. Check for extremes and judgments. Are you adding your own 'facts' to a situation? Check the above list of common cognitive distortions to see if your thought looks like any of the distortions.
  4. Reality Test: Ask yourself, "What is the evidence that supports this thought? What's the evidence agains this thought? Is there an alternative explanation? What is the worst that I could reasonably expect to happen? What would I tell a friend if they were in the same situation?"
  5. Rewrite the thought. Reconstruct the cognition in a way that fits the facts and its intensity also fits the facts.

What to expect from CBT at The Psychology Group

  • Learn to solve real-life problems
  • Receive support and understanding
  • Identify and challenge distorted thinking
  • Increase more realistic and positive thinking
  • Learn coping skills to stop problematic behaviors
  • Decrease distressing emotions
  • Homework assignments and takeaway skills to manage stress
  • Improved relationships

How to start CBT with us:

  1. The first step is to give us a call: (954) 488-2933
  2. Our practice offers complimentary 15-minute phone consultations. During this consultation we will learn more about your needs and goals. You'll be matched with one of our expert therapists
  3. Next, you'll meet with your therapist for an initial session. There, your CBT therapist will get a very thorough understanding of your unique background, history and what you'd like to accomplish. She'll share her ideas for an action plan and collaboratively, you'll decide next steps
  4. CBT typically includes other team members as appropriate. You might be recommended to visit a general physician, psychiatrist and/or dietician as part of your treatment team
  5. Cognitive Behavioral therapy is typically very hands on. Examples of what therapy sessions will focus on include: learning how to identify and change ineffective behaviors, recognizing automatic thoughts, challenging ineffective thinking, increasing more realistic and positive thinking

The Psychology Group Can Help

We have therapists highly trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and are looking forward to hearing from you. Don't be shy!

Call us today!
The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale
Social Rating
Based on 9 reviews
Google Rating
Based on 8 reviews
Facebook Rating
Based on 1 reviews