Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well established and effective therapeutic approach that emphasizes the link between our thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
At Austin Therapy for Girls, we developed this image to help our clients visualize these connections and have found this approach very effective with clients being treated for anxiety and depression symptoms.
Here are some of the reasons we are big fans of CBT:
1) What you think is not a fact, so in other words just because you think it doesn’t make it true.
2) Most of our thoughts and behaviors are learned, meaning our beliefs are just thoughts that we have had over and over again.
3) You can relieve emotional pain and suffering and learn better ways to cope with emotion, you have the power.
Here’s an example and with clients I actually have them follow the triangle with their fingers so they can follow along.
I have many clients tell me “I hate math”, the first step is to admit that is a thought, maybe you might explore why they think they hate math. Usually we boil it down to them not feeling like they are good at math and the worry that they will make a bad grade or fail.
Let’s figure it out using the CBT triangle, you think to yourself I hate math, I’m horrible at math and I am going to fail. That thought leads probably to several feelings, may be frustration, unmotivated, sadness etc.; then that feeling leads to probably the behavior of not wanting to do homework or putting it off ( our familiar friend procrastination).
Again, the goal of CBT is to change that thought, however, we want to make sure the new thoughts are believable. So unless you have Nadine Herbst, one of the best math teachers I have encountered at Westlake High School, I love math would maybe not be something you believe right now!
When we change the thought to something like math is challenging then where does that go and even though it’s hard I am not going to fail….then the feelings and behavior will change.
CBT can be used to set goals, as well. When I do this with clients, I usually add action steps under behavior. Let’s say you want to exercise more, if you are a client of mine, you are now sick of me saying this…I know. The behavior is you want to exercise more, your action steps might be a bit what might keep you from exercising and then specific action steps you can take. Since we are in ATX and it’s Mid-July and 103 outside right now, your actions steps might involve waking up early..or maybe setting a schedule for yourself, we know that even 45min. of exercise 3 times a week can help. Then again you move along the triangle, what thoughts do I need to think to do this behavior and how do I need/want to feel.
Here’s one of our favorite youtube videos to deal with negative thinking.
These are challenging times and there are no simple answers in dealing with all the uncertainty, disappointment among other emotions, we hope you will reach out if you or someone you care about needs extra support. For more information about our services, click here to send us an email.