What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Also known as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, includes becoming: “aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.”
This is done in two ways:
- The cognitive part includes becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions, as well as reviewing our history to understand why we feel the way we do.
- The second part, the behavioral piece, involves choosing different behaviors when we feel sad or depressed. By doing so, we can create new patterns of behavior that lead to changes in how we cope with mental illness.
Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help with Depression?
Depression can be debilitating, causing you to become stuck in negative thinking patterns about yourself or the world around you. This can lead to coping mechanisms that are not healthy, such as the extremes of alcohol or drug abuse, and even suicide.
You may not even realize that you are stuck in this pattern. Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression can help you become aware of how your thinking patterns, prior history, and coping mechanisms are connected. This can allow you become more aware of what’s going on and make different choices about how you handle these feelings.
An Example of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression
Let’s say that you are a client struggling with depression who seeks out treatment. A CBT-trained therapist can:
- Review your life history.
- Discuss when you feel depressed and what brings it on.
- Understand what you do when you feel depressed.
Together, you might learn that, when you were young, you lost a parent to an illness, and have since struggled to make strong connections with other people. You feel isolated, alone, and sad. To make these feelings go away, you drinkk too much alcohol as a means of coping with the sadness of the loss, which you have never fully processed.
Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Make Different Choices
Now that you both have “connected-the-dots,” you can make different choices when you feel depressed and are tempted to drink. These could include:
- Reaching out to a friend or sponsor to talk.
- Expressing your thoughts through journaling, art, or other creative expressions.
- Being physically active.
- Participating in social activities, clubs, or groups.
- Going over your choices with your therapist in session.
In this example, you could also conduct a ceremony or ritual that allows you to feelclosure about the loss.
Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Prevent Depression Relapse
Another way cognitive behavioral therapy for depression is helpful is that it can reduce the chance of relapse. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, notes that research indicates those who participated in CBT experienced a more long-lasting effect after treatment ended. Participants also had a decreased chance of relapsing back into depression.
Depression can be a difficult struggle for those who suffer from the condition.
However, this does not mean that you have live with the symptoms of depression with the rest of your life. By working with a therapist trained in CBT, you can use cognitive behavioral therapy for depression to better understand why you feel the way you do. You can then take steps to make positive changes in your life in order to eventually live free of depression.