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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is CBT?

CBT is an abbreviation for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. “Cognition” is a synonym for “thinking,” whereas “Behavior” is defined as observable, measurable actions. CBT is the most well studied and empirically supported form of psychological treatment. NBI offers evidence-supported CBT for a variety of psychological conditions and problems.

The term CBT is used to classify a set of empirically based psychotherapies that focus on the present as opposed to developing “insights” about past experiences, and address problems in “thinking” and “behaving” directly. This does not mean, however, that CBT ignores emotions. CBT has ancient roots in Western philosophy and a modern foundation in learning theory. Most recently, some CBT approaches have sought to integrate Western ideas with Eastern philosophies that emphasize mindfulness and acceptance.

Patients and families generally find CBT concepts readily understandable and can usefully employ its strategies after a relatively brief period of learning about them. They also like the fact that CBT provides specific target goals and that progress toward them can be quantified. The NBI staff has specific training and extensive experience in providing CBT. The clinical directors of NBI are each board certified in Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy.

Who might benefit from CBT?

A better question might well be, “Who wouldn’t benefit from CBT?” CBT is “applied psychology”: this means that CBT can be tailored according to age, needs, and level of functioning. There is no age barrier to using CBT—for example, CBT can be provided to parents and family members as well as in treating the very young and across the life span.

Although CBT is often short-term for treating specific psychological symptoms, it is also applicable to more severe, complex, or chronic disorders that necessitate intensive or longer-term treatment. In fact, CBT is utilized for some of the most severe and debilitating psychological conditions.

A few examples: CBT has shown to be effective in the treatment of OCD and Related Conditions, Trauma, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and even in coping with Thought Disorder symptoms.

CBT strategies are also used in managing general stress, as well as in school, workplace, and career challenges.

How does CBT work?

As understanding of the brain, mind, behavior, and sociocultural factors increases, theories about how CBT works are also evolving. Initially, CBT was conceptualized to work because it decreased maladaptive cognitions and behaviors, and/or created more adaptive cognitions and behaviors. Currently, it is thought that CBT benefits brain and body functioning, perhaps like how physical exercise does, with the ultimate goal of making lasting positive changes in symptoms and reaching one’s potential in life.

What is the evidence that CBT is effective?

CBT has a solid and increasing evidence base for its efficacy. In fact, it has been studied more than any other type of psychotherapy. Research has consistently found strong evidence for CBT in treating anxiety disorders, tics, and Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders—in both pediatric and adult patients. CBT has also been found to be effective in treating depression, personality disorders, anger management and/or impulse control problems, and many other conditions.

CBT research is ongoing, which forms a basis for improving treatment protocols, “personalizing” treatment, and identifying prognostic factors that can be used in determining when CBT is, and is not, indicated. CBT has been found to also have utility in supporting “readiness for change,” motivation, and relapse prevention in conditions such as Substance Use Disorders and other addictive behaviors, as well as in Eating Disorders.

Can CBT work together with medication?

Absolutely, yes—CBT and medication can work very well together. While in many instances CBT is effective as a “stand-alone” treatment, in certain conditions or situations, utilizing medication together with CBT is considered “best practice.” One compelling reason for combining CBT and medication is when symptoms are severe enough that without medication, there is insufficient, or no ability to participate in CBT. In such cases, the hope is that CBT and medication will work synergistically. However, on a case-by-case basis and only after consulting with the physician, there may be times when it may be safe to reduce or stop medication and continue with CBT alone. When CBT is used in conjunction with medications, good communication among the clinical team is vital.


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