Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common methods used to treat anxiety and is also one of the most successful. In milder cases, a patient can see improvement in their symptoms within as little as eight sessions with a trained counselor. While more severe cases may need many more sessions of CBT, this form of therapy is considered the standard of care for patients dealing with anxiety.
What is Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has been around for many years. The therapy works by having a patient and a counselor work together to identify and address how the patient’s thoughts and actions work together to create the anxiety that they’re feeling. Therapists will also work with their patients to help them recognize how their negative thought patterns influence the patient’s feelings and behaviors.
Through CBT, a therapist will teach the patient to change negative thought patterns through techniques such as relaxation skills and changing behaviors. There are multiple types of CBT, and it is often necessary to try several different types before finding the best method for a patient.
Patients will often discover that several different methods of CBT work well for them, and it is not at all uncommon for anxiety treatments to combine several different methods of CBT to most effectively deal with the patient’s anxiety. It’s also not unusual for a person to change the method of CBT they use over life events. Many people find that different methods work better in different scenarios.
Patients with more severe cases of anxiety will likely discover that they need multiple sessions of CBT to work through the causes and possible solutions to their anxiety.
Types of Behavioral Therapy
Relaxation exercises are some of the first techniques many therapists try with their patients. Their goal is to reduce patients’ stress and allow them to think more clearly during stressful situations. This can help patients feel like they are in control of a stressful situation.
Relaxation exercises include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. These techniques are often helpful for patients who experience acute anxiety for short periods. It is often possible to use these techniques quickly and in public, allowing patients to feel calm before entering a meeting, speaking in front of a large group, or even going shopping.
Cognitive restructuring or reframing
Cognitive restructuring is a technique that involves learning to identify negative thought patterns. For example, many anxious people overgeneralize, assume the worst will happen in a particular scenario, and/or place too much importance on minor details.
By working with a therapist, a patient can learn to recognize immediately when they start to think in these patterns. The patient will then learn to change that pattern of thinking.
Thought challenging is a method that encourages patients to think about things from a different point of view by using actual evidence from their own lives. This method can help a patient consider thoughts and events more objectively. This is often helpful to the patient because it can help them to see a situation from the viewpoint of other people rather than just assuming that their thoughts are the only truth.
This method provides education about cognitive distortions to the patient, which can help them identify when a cognitive distortion is showing up in their own thoughts. Having that realization gives the patient the tools to correct unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more factual ones.
Patients with anxiety can use this method to realize on their own that a situation is not worth the level of fear or apprehension that they have assigned to it.
When anxiety prevents a patient from participating in an activity, behavioral activation provides methods by which they can force themselves to participate. This method is commonly used with patients who experience various forms of social anxiety.
For example, a patient with anxiety about attending parties would be taught to reserve a spot for themselves and schedule the event on a calendar. They may also plan to attend with a friend who would pressure them not to cancel at the last minute. Along with other techniques, the goal is to have the patient work through their fears.
Thought recording, also known as journaling, helps patients identify and become aware of their thoughts and feelings. It can also help to clarify and organize a patient’s thoughts. Possible thought recording techniques include making lists of negative thoughts and creating positive thoughts that can be used instead.
Behavioral experiments are often called thought experiments by people familiar with the technique. This method is most commonly used with people with anxiety tied to catastrophic thinking. These patients will typically assume the worst is going to happen.
Essentially, this method encourages patients to imagine various scenarios or possible outcomes of a stressful situation. By discussing these scenarios with a counselor, a person can eventually realize that the worst-case scenario is unlikely. Eventually, the patient can reduce their anxiety around a situation because they understand that it is most likely that the situation will end positively.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, visit Positive Reset. Our clinic has years of experience helping people with anxiety. We would love to meet and discuss how to work together to help you with your anxiety.