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Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Be Used Effectively On-Line

Amidst all the challenges we’ve faced over the last few years, one of the positives that’s come about is the increased access to, and the normalization of, on-line support. Virtual therapy, or telehealth, has become a very popular way of accessing mental health services. Thanks to modern technology, you are now able to connect with a therapist from the comfort of your own home, sitting on your own couch, wearing your pajamas, and with your cat curled up on your lap if you’d like. While some still prefer to engage in the counseling process the old fashioned way, in person and face to face, telehealth therapy meets a need for many, and there are some therapeutic techniques that are particularly well suited for this method of service.

One of those therapeutic techniques is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT. As the name implies, CBT is a treatment approach that focuses on the ways in which we think about things, and how our thoughts drive our emotions and behaviors. It’s a form of therapy that is backed by a great deal of research and has been proven to be highly effective with a range of mental health struggles. Studies show that CBT helps reduce depression and anxiety, for example, and leads to an overall improvement in quality of life which is statistically significant and lasting.

Therapists who use CBT will work with you on identifying ways in which you might be thinking about things that are unhelpful, problematic, or that exacerbate negative feelings. There are a number of examples of “cognitive errors” that we all fall into from time to time that tend to make us feel worse. One such example is “all or nothing thinking,” the tendency to think about things in extremes. Have you ever fallen into that trap of having one thing go wrong one morning and deciding that the whole day is ruined? Or, you missed one workout and decided you’re a complete failure? That’s all or nothing thinking. Again, common but unhelpful.

In addition to exploring your various thought patterns, a CBT therapist will work with you on how your beliefs may be affecting your emotions, such as believing you are a failure, and therefore feeling depressed or anxious, as well as how both thoughts and emotions impact your choices and behaviors. The therapist will help you recognize patterns that are working against you, and help you explore ways in which you can make some positive changes that will help you feel better emotionally.

One of the hallmarks of CBT is the assignment of therapeutic “homework.” What?? Homework?? That doesn’t sound like much fun, right? But giving you these therapeutic assignments really helps you track thoughts, feelings, and choices in a way that brings about greater awareness and understanding. It’s all about identifying the things we do that are less helpful or that are contributing to the problems we’re having, and then learning how to implement new strategies, new ways of thinking and responding, that lead to feeling better emotionally.

Because so much of CBT takes place outside of the actual therapy session, that is, through your therapy homework, CBT is a great model for on-line therapy. In between sessions, you have a structure of things you can work on. During your virtual sessions, you and your therapist can review homework, talk about what helped or didn’t help, and discuss new strategies you can implement for the next week, or until you meet again. CBT is less focused on what therapists call “processing emotions,” and is more solution focused. It’s a form of talk therapy that is more goal oriented and often more short-term than other forms of therapy. There are wonderful learning opportunities using CBT, with therapists sharing a great deal of information about what’s helpful versus unhelpful with respect to thought patterns, as well as sharing their expertise on useful skills and resources.

If you’re considering on-line counseling, talk to your therapist about what treatment approaches they use, and consider choosing a therapist who incorporates CBT. Not only is it an effective treatment approach overall, but recent studies indicate that CBT is, in fact, one of the best forms of treatment to use in telehealth, virtual therapy. For more call (805) 842-1994.

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