Cognitive Therapy: Taking Control of Your Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Maybe a few of these situations sound familiar? Does bad luck creep into your life often? Do you find it hard to shake off a passing comment from a friend? Do you frequently anticipate aggravating conversations with coworkers? Are you physically tired due to a lack of sleep from feeling depressed and anxious? Do you overreact when your child misbehaves? Your frustrations and feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiousness may seem uncontrollable, but did you know that you could learn tools and techniques that will help you to take charge of your own behavior? Cognitive Therapy may be a valuable option for you and/or your child. It can be used for such wide-ranging issues as bullying, divorce, depression, anxiety, low-self esteem, and a host of other concerns.

Scientifically tested and found to be an effective form of psychotherapy, Cognitive Therapy focuses on the present and problem solving. During therapy, patients learn specific skills that involve identifying distorted thinking, modifying beliefs, and changing their feelings in order to change their behaviors. Often patients can learn these skills in a shorter timeframe than in other therapies, and use them throughout their lifetime.

Cognitive Therapy uses different types of therapeutic homework to help people manage their issues. These different homework tools (e.g. daily logging of thoughts) play essential roles in empowering the patient and analyzing the effectiveness of the therapy. Therapists help patients discover that they are capable and possess the tools to think positive thoughts and control their behavior. It’s a collaborative approach in which ideas are tested and patients are encouraged to examine evidence of their previous behaviors in order to identify whether their thoughts are accurate.

During therapy, the patient is taught that the emotional response he may be having to a situation can be greatly influenced by his individual interpretation of the situation at hand. Many times, a reaction can be skewed or distorted by preexisting thoughts. Negative thinking can be biased and illogical, as well as, emotionally and physically damaging if gone unrecognized, and Cognitive Therapy assists patients in recognizing how thoughts can lead to destructive feelings.

For example, an acquaintance passes without saying hello; you immediately think he has done so on purpose because he is angry with you. You have no evidence however to support the thought, which is most likely based on previous interpersonal experience. Cognitive Therapy takes into account past and early learning experiences, but primarily focuses on resolving a patient’s current problems.

You may also feel as though you are not liked and have trouble making friends. There may be a bit of truth in the fact that you are uncomfortable in some social situations, but feeling as though no one likes you may be irrational thinking. This thought over time becomes an automatic, negative response. These responses may now be engrained in your thinking process, and ultimately affect you leading to frustration, anxiety or depression. Recognizing the triggers that bring on your negative thoughts can help steer you back to the reality of the situation as it happens. Through repetition the pattern of negative thinking becomes an almost predictable but solvable puzzle that can be taken apart and put back together with the right problem solving tools. It’s up to you, however, to take control and work with your therapist to find the solutions.

Dr. Aaron T. Beck, globally recognized as the father of Cognitive Therapy, has been called by The American Psychologist one of the five most influential psychotherapists of all time. While Dr. Beck worked at the University of Pennsylvania, he designed and carried out several experiments to test psychoanalytic concepts of depression. During his research, he was surprised to find that depression can be maintained and perpetuated by thinking negative thoughts persistently, impacting the interpretation of (or thoughts about) an event. He found that distorted thinking leads to negative emotions. This research laid the groundwork for his development of Cognitive Therapy.

Children, teens and adults can benefit from Cognitive Therapy. Learn how to identify what you’re thinking and change your feelings and behaviors so that you can live a more fulfilled and happy life. Please feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment or for additional resources on emotional and psychological wellbeing.