Journeys

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: What is it and how does it work?

by Wendy Coffey, MSW, LCSW, 1584629718094


Imagine walking in the woods on the same path day after day. The path has some rattlesnakes and bears lurking but you take it anyway because it is a familiar path. This is how the neural pathways work in your brain. The way you think day after day is habituated to create a path for your thoughts. One day the rattlesnake might bite you, then you consider taking another path but it is not comfortable and it takes some time to get used to. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you find another path. While in therapy you begin to question your thoughts consistently until they forge a new way of thinking and in turn, a new way of being. **Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and your Core Beliefs** Cognitive Behavioral Therapy starts with examining your core beliefs. These are beliefs about yourself that have become internalized through time. They may have been established in your childhood. These thoughts fall into three categories: Helpless core beliefs: “I am incompetent, I am powerless, I am a victim”, Unlovable core beliefs: “I am unlovable, I am different, I am not good enough, Worthless core beliefs: “ I am worthless, I am bad, I am toxic. These thoughts tend to crop up automatically and are thus termed “automatic thoughts”. These thoughts are not necessarily true just because you keep thinking them, they are just what you have “always thought”. They have become a habit of thinking. **How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work?** The therapist will ask questions to elicit your core beliefs and then you will write down your automatic thoughts and question their validity. Some of these questions might be: What makes me think the thought is true? What is another way to look at this? What is the worst that could happen? What would I do then? What could happen if I change my thinking? What would I tell my friend if this happened to him/her? A certain problem is discussed during each visit and homework is given to complete every day. This homework consists of writing down when you had a certain thought and questioning whether evidence exists that the thought is in fact true. Is there an alternative explanation? What is the best that can happen? What is the most realistic? After completing homework and carefully examining your thoughts daily you begin to create a different path in your brain. If all goes well this becomes your new walk in the woods without the fear of rattlesnakes and bears. **Combination Head and Heart** While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a focused approach with definitive goals in mind it is best used in combination with other modalities that bring in your entire body. Your thoughts are one part of your body, your feelings and “gut instincts” are another. In order to tap into your body sensations it is helpful to practice meditation, yoga, sound healing, nature walking, time with family and friends and good nutrition. All of these healing practices can be found at Body Positive Works. You are a whole person with thoughts and feelings both working together to create a positive or negative experience of life. You have the power to walk your own path.