CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) relates to a cognition and behavior used as tools for an emotional change. CBT model talks about emotions, thinking and behavior inter-influencing each other. So we can change emotions by using reconstruction of our thinking or by changing our behavior, or we can start from emotions if they are too high to perform thinking at the moment, by applying mediation, self care approach and other but then using thinking and behavior for further work. The thinking part relates to the prefrontal lobe of our brain (your forehead) that, beside functions such as judgment and planning, is responsible for decision making and impulse control. An impulse comes from your primal part of the brain (lower part of your head) and without an engagement of your prefrontal lobe it can become chaotic. Let me explain that on an example with anxiety. You feel anxious and feeling tense in your chest or belly, depending on a person. You can feel dizzy, having a blurred vision, having a sense of threat and need to escape. Then these impulses emerge in a form of your thought. You might think “I am in danger” or “Bad things will happen” “Other people think badly about me” and other. This how your primal part of your brain reacts automatically to the stimuli that can be external (the world, others) and internal (your perception of it). Here the prefrontal lobe can enter a scene and work on a reality of your perception that causes you to see events in a certain way – so called a reality check. So when you automatically think “bad things will happen” it is actually your emotion talking, it echoes in your prefrontal lobe, but you have to wake up a prefrontal lobe to actually check it up for yourself if this is actually true. Why? Because our brain makes errors of judgment causing unnecessary emotions in conditions that we live now. In the jungle, errors of judgment increase your survival, in our society we not really need it anymore in most situations. To use a prefrontal lobe analyze it, ask yourself two main questions – “What are evidences for your fear” “What are evidences against your fear?” Often you will see that you cant read people’s mind, you are not a fortune teller or that actually you ignore positive things but embrace negative aspects not necessarily present in the real situation. The behavioral part encourages you to change a behavior around situations you experience anxiety from. For example, you avoid talking to people because you experience social anxiety. In your thinking process you have automatic beliefs about how badly it can end. An encouragement will be to go and check the reality if something bad happens when you speak to someone. If you keep avoiding the situation then you convince your brain that a perception is true where actually you even haven’t checked a reality of it. Sometimes it is hard to do it on your own, getting a feedback from a professional will help you to speed up a process and gain a support needed for the work you will have to do. But now you have a general idea how CBT works.
Now lets answer a question, is it for everyone? CBT demands your engagement and following a homework in between sessions. It is an active approach so you are learning lots of tools that you can apply in every day life. Psychoeducation gives you knowledge about your brain which is priceless. Knowing yourself better means managing yourself better. So this approach is for people who like structure, who are willing to follow instructions and are disciplined. You will not loose weight if you don’t apply certain rules to your life, the same with your mental health, it requires your sense of responsibility and engagement. However, there are approaches that are more passive and are basing a recovery just on emotional support. That can work too if this is only what you need, a feeling that someone cares. Yet, with CBT you are actually getting additional psychological in depth knowledge of how your brain works that can be useful beyond your initial issue. It has a long term use in your relationships, work or parenthood. And a CBT practitioner still uses empathy and relationship tools to help you to go through this process smoothly and safely. You still gain a companion on your journey.