When it comes to counseling and therapy, there are so many different options available that it can be confusing and daunting to choose. How do you know which one is best for you? Sometimes it’s all a matter of trial and error, or simply asking your therapist for their professional opinion on which treatment option would be most suitable for you. However, if you don’t have the time or resources to do either, then you need to do a lot of research to try and figure it out for yourself.
One of the most popular kinds of therapy practiced by many psychologists nowadays is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (or CBT), largely thanks to its easy application and simple techniques. Founded by psychologist Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s, CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment that aims to help patients understand and control the thoughts and feelings which influence their behaviors, and ultimately, overcome the destructive patterns that result from their negative thinking and unrealistic beliefs.
With that said, if you’re curious about CBT and want to know if it’s worth giving a try, you should ask yourself these 7 questions to find out:
1. What is my diagnosis?
Knowing your diagnosis can do a lot to help you determine which kind of psychosocial treatment is best for you. Each mental illness responds differently to each kind of therapy, so you should go for the one that’s been proven to be the most effective in treating your specific diagnosis and symptoms. However, if you don’t have a diagnosis or feel that you don’t have a serious mental illness, but rather, personal problems that you would just like to resolve, then CBT is the best answer for you.
2. How serious is my problem?
Similar to the last question, the seriousness of your mental health issue is an important consideration to whether or not CBT will work for you. If you suffer from panic attacks, general anxiety, insomnia, specific phobias, substance abuse and addiction, relationship problems, or anger management problems, then CBT can help you. However, if your problems are more severe or complex, then you might need a more long-term treatment plan, especially if you have multiple diagnoses or have a chronic or recurrent mental illness (like a personality disorder or an intellectual disability).
3. Are my problems rooted in my thoughts?
The fundamental idea behind CBT is that in changing what we think, we can change how we act and respond to certain situations. It’s specially designed to treat problems that are rooted in your thought patterns, by reframing your mindset to alleviate your emotional distress and help you eliminate dysfunctional behaviors. However, if your problems are not rooted in your thoughts, but rather your environment, physiology, or things that are out of your control, then CBT might not be right for you.
4. Do I have a clear problem to solve?
CBT is a solution-focused, goal-oriented therapy. It’s practical, direct, and focused on the here and now. And because it’s only a short-term process, there needs to be a specific problem at hand that you want to resolve. If you want to quit smoking or get over a bad breakup, for example, then CBT is a suitable option for you. On the other hand, if you’re just generally unhappy or dissatisfied with your life but can’t think of a particular reason why (i.e., no past trauma, no abuse, no significant failures), you might be better of with a different kind of treatment.
5. Am I ready to confront my problems?
Because you will be spending so much time analyzing and understanding your thoughts, you might learn or recall some uncomfortable things about yourself and your life. You will need to talk about your problems openly with your therapist in order for them to help you, as therapy cannot work if the client isn’t ready to be emotionally vulnerable and confront their personal issues. So before you go on, ask yourself: am I comfortable thinking about my feelings? Can I handle my emotions and my anxiety? It might be a bit upsetting at first, but if you really want to solve your problems, the best way is to face it head-on.
6. Can I dedicate time to therapy?
Although CBT is one of the shortest forms of therapy there is, 5-6 months is still a considerable period of time for a lot of people. You will have to go to hourly sessions once a week and sometimes even come home with homework and exercises for you to do outside of these sessions. This can be time-consuming, but you have to commit to the process in order to benefit from it.
Some people go to therapy and don’t come back because they feel it wasn’t effective or that it wasn’t worth the time. People like this often expect therapy to happen overnight, but it doesn’t. Not only will you need to dedicate your time to the healing process, but you must be emotionally invested, committed, and motivated as well. Otherwise, CBT will not be effective for you.
7. Do I believe in the power of therapy?
Before you try CBT, be honest with yourself first about whether or not you really believe that it can help you. If you’re not at least open to trying it or willing to commit yourself to the process, then you’re just wasting your time. Therapy is a collaborative effort. Your therapist will help you get better, but they’re not going to do the work for you. You need to be the one who wants to change and actually make an effort to improve your life with more positive thinking and healthier behaviors.
So is CBT really right for you? It’s a difficult question to grapple with. In summary, those who will benefit from CBT the most are generally people who: know what their problem is and want to fix it; are willing to work hard and put in the effort to do so; and know that their issues can be solved with a more positive and constructive mindset.