The Power of CBT in Thought Reframing: Change Your Mind, Change Your Well-Being

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

More than one in five Americans live with some form of mental illness. These include everything from anxiety and depression to sleep and eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many more. 

The good news is that, while there is no silver bullet for eradicating these conditions, there are many effective treatments. One of the most popular and impactful ones is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  

This article covers the basics of CBT and explains the role it can play in “thought reframing.” Keep reading to learn how this powerful tool can help you establish new thought patterns and perspectives. You may find it beneficial in addressing and improving ongoing health concerns.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a specific type of psychotherapy which tends to be a shorter term, more action-oriented approach in dealing with a variety of mental health conditions or life stressors. This entails a patient meeting with a trained mental health therapist.

The clinician guides the individual to become more aware of inaccurate or negative thinking patterns that lead to unwanted behaviors or consequences. This happens through a process known as “cognitive restructuring” or “thought reframing.”  

In addition, the goal in therapy is to change any maladaptive behavioral patterns or communication styles that contribute to emotional reactivity.  

 

What Does Thought Reframing Entail?

Cognitive reframing can be condensed into three main steps. These CBT techniques transform how a patient thinks or feels about particular situations. 

Step One

The first step is to identify negative thoughts and the physical feelings they evoke. Examples might include thoughts about how you might mess up a school or work presentation. Or that friends or loved ones dislike you because they failed to return your text or call. 

Step Two

Step two involves challenging those thoughts. Are they based on empirical facts or simply feelings that you are having? Are there alternative and more rational explanations to replace the distorted thought patterns?

To stay with the current examples, are there good reasons to believe that you will do poorly on the presentation? If it is because you failed to prepare, the answer could be “yes.” However, if you have worked hard on the project, the concern may be unfounded. 

Could there be an alternative reason that someone failed to message you back besides not liking you? Have they been exceedingly busy lately? Could they possibly dislike texting because of their own social anxieties? 

Step Three

The final phase in the process involves replacing cognitive distortions with realistic thoughts. For instance, rather than dwelling on the possibility of messing up a presentation, focus on the facts.

If you spend appropriate time preparing, what is the worst case scenario? You might think about how, even if you do make a mistake, your level of preparation will make it easy to regain your footing.

What is the best case scenario? It’s quite possible that your presentation is likely to be successful.

What is the most realistic scenario? You might consider that a slight misstep and recovery could demonstrate your grasp of the information.

The role of the therapist is to cultivate these thought patterns and guide you toward more realistic ways of thinking. 

 

Why Is CBT So Effective? 

There are many reasons for CBT’s popularity. Here are a few of the main ones to consider.  

Short- And Long-Term Efficacy

CBT is a preferred method of treatment because it can bring about both rapid and lasting results. The required number of treatment sessions depends on the individual, but many people see results within the first few visits.

This does not mean that they are “cured” or that further therapy is not warranted. The point is simply that the process of thought reframing can have immediate positive implications. 

Wide Range of Applications

CBT can be used to: 

  • Manage symptoms related to mental illness
  • Prevent the recurrence of symptoms
  • Treat mental health issues where medication has been unsuccessful or cannot be taken
  • Help resolve relationship conflicts through improved communication
  • Overcome emotional trauma from abuse or violence
  • Help cope with grief and loss

CBT has also proven effective at treating many different types of conditions. Common ones include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Social anxiety
  • Stress
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Sexual disorders

CBT can also be used to treat more serious mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. In these cases, CBT is most effective when it is combined with other treatments. 

For instance, someone with schizophrenia almost always needs medication. However, CBT can help the individual identify hallucinations or delusions. Likewise, a person with anxiety or depression may benefit from medication but learn to manage emotions better through CBT. 

A final example is someone combating substance abuse issues. A therapist might combine CBT with group therapy. CBT can help them identify triggers and reduce stress, while group therapy imparts skills for combatting temptations to use. 

Other Benefits

Besides helping to reframe thought patterns, there are other advantages that CBT can offer. These include validating the patient’s emotions. In general, CBT does not say “You are wrong for thinking or feeling this” but rather “What are the different ways of looking at the things that make you feel this way?”

Another benefit of CBT is that it can elevate mood by teaching compassion and empathy. Even if the patient’s thoughts and feelings remain unchanged, CBT can help individuals gain a deeper understanding into others’ perspectives. If nothing else, this can translate to a kinder, more compassionate means of interacting with the world.  

Find Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Near You 

Thought reframing is an effective tool in combating distorted thoughts and related feelings. 

Since 1995, Advanced Behavioral Health has been treating clients with a range of conditions using evidence-based psychotherapy models. We are located in Midtown Manhattan and specialize in cognitive behavior and other mindfulness-based therapies. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment.

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