To a certain extent, stress, tension, and anxiety are a normal part of life. However, if you’ve been dealing with what feels like much more than your fair share of stressful circumstances, or other challenges like substance abuse, it might be time to consider talking to a professional.
Modern treatments for anxiety focus on your thoughts and behavior in the moment with an approach called cognitive-behavioral therapy, abbreviated CBT.
Read on to learn more about what CBT is, who should try it, and what you should expect.
What Does CBT Treat?
The American Psychological Association recognizes CBT as a valid, evidence-based treatment for a wide variety of conditions.
Clinicians have used it to great effect with patients who are depressed and anxious.
Some research has even extended the practice to treating other conditions, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and eating disorders.
CBT can even work for patients undergoing a detox for drugs.
If you’re trying to reduce or eliminate your use of substances like drugs or alcohol, CBT practitioners can help you restructure your thinking and behavior after you complete a medical detox so you can learn new ways to cope with daily challenges without substance use.
While psychological tools alone aren’t sufficient for a safe detox, they’re essential for sustained, healthy recovery.
How Is CBT Different From Other Therapies?
As the name suggests, CBT focuses on addressing your cognitions, or thoughts, in combination with your behaviors, or observable actions.
CBT practitioners believe that what you think influences your feelings and that certain behaviors perpetuate unhealthy emotional environments.
By modifying the way you act and questioning your usual thought patterns, you can gradually bring about sustainable changes in the way you feel.
What Should You Expect From CBT?
If you choose to work with a cognitive-behavioral therapist, you’ll meet with your provider, discuss your desire to lessen your anxiety, and identify specific goals that are important to you.
Common treatment targets include sleeping better, improving work performance, and feeling more comfortable in social situations.
Your provider will talk to you about ways to achieve these goals through a variety of processes, including:
- Evaluating negative, unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more realistic versions
- Working on stress management techniques like paced breathing or mindfulness
- Practicing healthy coping skills between sessions for homework
Most CBT programs will expect you to be an active participant in the therapeutic process.
Your provider may ask you to fill out worksheets for homework, read a book or article between appointments, or keep a journal about your thoughts.
Even if taking home an assignment reminds you of your school days, do your best to follow through on them!
Developing emotional regulation, stress management, and interpersonal skills is an important focus of CBT, and just as with any other new skillset, you’ll be more likely to acquire these skills if you practice them often.
Getting help for chronic stress and anxiety can be a stressful process in and of itself, but it’s an important step on your path to wellness.
CBT is an effective, accessible treatment with relatively few risks that appears to help many people with stress and anxiety.
Only a mental health care provider can determine what treatment is right for you, but CBT may be able to help you manage your stress levels quickly.