Dr. Judith D. Bertoia, Registered Psychologist, Registered Play Therapist - Supervisor

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The focus of cognitive behavioral therapy is on changing distorted ways of thinking that may be causing or increasing dysfunctional emotions and behaviors. It is a relatively short term therapy (typically 6 20 sessions) with a great deal of research supporting its effectiveness. Sometimes used in conjunction with medication, it has the added benefit of helping to develop new ways of thinking and behaving that continue into the future. Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for a wide range of issues, and is especially well researched for its efficacy in treating depression and anxiety.

The cognitive, or thinking, interventions of this therapeutic approach work to identify specific distorted thoughts that come automatically. It also seeks out the maladaptive assumptions about oneself and others that form expectations and beliefs about oneself and the world. Once distorted thought patterns and assumptions are identified, a wide range of interventions are used to challenge them so that new, more logical and adaptive patterns can be established. For example, someone struggling with anxiety may think about an upcoming work presentation by catastrophizing (I'm going to blow this and I'll be mortified), mindreading (They already think I'm a loser), and discounting positives (Those presentations last week were easy, so they don't count) based on beliefs such as "I should never be anxious," and "My value as a person depends on my success and net worth."

Another component of this therapeutic approach is behavioral. This can include development of relaxation techniques or effective communications skills, goal setting, tracking thoughts, moods, and behaviors, scheduling rewards, and so forth. Research has shown that, just as physical fitness is improved by exercising between appointments with a personal trainer, the skills learned in therapy sessions and practiced as homework are mastered faster and last longer.

There is now a great deal of research on the strong relationship between our thoughts and physical state, including our emotions. Our physical health and our emotional state can influence our thinking, but our thinking patterns can also have significant impact on our physical and emotional well-being. In our culture we are often aware that changes in lifestyle such as increasing exercise or improving dietary habits can improve how we feel. But as conscious beings we also have the capacity to shift distorted thoughts in order to change as well. Often we are unaware that how we think about life situations is not how everyone thinks. We frequently continue in habitual patterns of thinking, behaving, and communicating, somewhat disconnected from bodily awareness and self-reflection until things start to fall apart in difficult circumstances. Then we face the need to change and develop new more integrated and authentic ways of being in the world.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on what is happening now, with a view towards change for a more enjoyable future. There may be significant biochemical or historical elements to the current challenging patterns and these maybe useful to explore briefly, but the focus is on learning how to change the way you think about your life now and to address challenges on your own in the future.

The answers lie within. The challenge is listening to their wisdom and then creating change.

Change your mind to change your life.
— John Marks Templeton

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.
— Marculs Auralius