Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Treat Psychiatric Patients
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness (APA, 2017). CBT combines cognitive therapy with behavior therapy by identifying maladaptive patterns of thinking, emotional responses, or behaviors and replacing them with more desirable patterns (Verywell Mind, 2022).
CBT is based on several core principles, including:
– Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
– Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
– People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.
CBT places an emphasis on helping individuals learn to be their own therapists. Through exercises in the session as well as “homework” exercises outside of sessions, patients/clients are helped to develop coping skills, whereby they can learn to change their own thinking, problematic emotions, and behavior (APA, 2017).
How Does CBT Work for Psychiatric Patients?
CBT is a group of time-limited, goal-oriented psychotherapies that have been extensively researched for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. CBT targets changes in symptoms of psychiatric disorders to reduce functional impairments and improve patients’ overall quality of life (AAFP, 2015).
CBT works by helping patients identify and change thinking and behavior patterns that are unhealthy or ineffective, replacing them with more accurate thoughts and functional behaviors. It can help a person focus better on current problems and how to solve them (Psychiatry.org).
CBT is an empirically supported approach to psychotherapy characterized by teaching the patient a set of coping skills. The skills are intended to modify maladaptive cognitions, behaviors, and physiological responses that maintain and/or exacerbate psychopathology (Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide, 2020).
Some of the common skills taught in CBT include:
– Cognitive restructuring: This involves identifying and challenging negative or distorted thoughts that contribute to emotional distress or problematic behaviors. Patients learn to replace these thoughts with more realistic and helpful ones.
– Behavioral activation: This involves increasing engagement in positive or rewarding activities that can improve mood and motivation. Patients learn to schedule and monitor their activities and identify potential barriers or obstacles.
– Exposure therapy: This involves gradually confronting feared or avoided situations or stimuli that trigger anxiety or trauma-related symptoms. Patients learn to cope with their emotional and physical reactions and reduce their avoidance behavior.
– Relaxation training: This involves learning various techniques to reduce stress and tension in the body and mind. Patients learn to practice breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or mindfulness meditation.
– Problem-solving: This involves learning a systematic approach to identify and resolve current difficulties or challenges. Patients learn to define the problem, generate possible solutions, evaluate the pros and cons of each solution, implement the chosen solution, and review the outcome.
What Are the Benefits of CBT for Psychiatric Patients?
CBT has many benefits for psychiatric patients, such as:
– It is evidence-based: CBT has been shown to be effective for various psychiatric disorders in numerous research studies. It has been recommended as a first-line treatment by many clinical guidelines and professional organizations.
– It is short-term: CBT typically lasts between 8 to 20 sessions, depending on the type and severity of the problem. It can be delivered in individual or group formats, in person or online.
– It is collaborative: CBT involves a partnership between the therapist and the patient. They work together to set goals, monitor progress, and provide feedback. The patient is an active participant in the treatment process.
– It is empowering: CBT helps patients develop skills that they can use independently after the treatment ends. It fosters self-reliance and self-confidence in managing one’s own mental health.
APA. (2017). What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
AAFP. (2015). Common Questions About Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Psychiatric Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2015/1101/p807.html
Psychiatry.org. What is Psychotherapy? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy
Verywell Mind. (2022). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Types, Techniques, Uses. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cognitive-behavior-therapy-2795747
Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide. (2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsguides.com/hopkins/view/Johns_Hopkins_Psychiatry_Guide/787145/all/Cognitive_Behavioral_Therapy__CBT_