In this article we are going to take a look at Cognitive behavioural therapy and Five CBT success stories across different conditions.
The cognitive school of psychology emerged as a response to the psychodynamic school of thought by various theorists who were dissatisfied with the deterministic way in which they viewed mental disorders.
Cognitive behavioural therapy emerged during the 1960s in the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck, who noted that certain types of thinking brought about emotional problems as he developed the CBT process.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of treatment that is used and found to be effective for a range of psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, and substance use disorder.
It has been highly regarded for filling the gap of earlier behavioural treatments that focused on modifying behaviour or associations to childhood experiences without regarding present thoughts, feelings which affect behaviors in the now.
It is important to highlight that the development and process of CBT has been made based on scientific evidence, research, and practice- which were not applied to psychological treatment before.
CBT is based on several principals:
CBT theory posits that psychological problems arise due to faulty or unadaptive ways of thinking based on beliefs that a person learns through past experiences.
It stresses that people suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.
These ways or strategies of coping are chosen based on collaboration between client and therapist- meaning that the client has a say in the direction of their own treatment.
These strategies of coping can include:
- Learning to identify one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them realistically.
- Develop a greater sense of capabilities and confidence by evaluating strengths and victories.
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
- Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.
- Role playing to prepare for difficult interactions with others.
- Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body through meditation and relaxation techniques.
- CBT also emphasises self-therapy, all the techniques used in therapy are taught with the intent for the client to apply them outside of therapy by themselves through homework.
What CBT Can Help With
Cognitive behavior therapy can be used as a treatment plan for various conditions. It can be used as a strategy along with drug treatment for severe mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders and it can also be used in daily life adjustment related problems of teens and young adults.
The focus of treatment in any CBT related therapies is to change the way identify disorder cognitions and irrational core beliefs that you have learned over your life experiences, evaluate and rationalize them, restructure your beliefs to be more resistant and optimistic, and actively change behaviour.
CBT is used to treat a wide range of conditions including:
- Anger issues
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Panic attacks
- Personality disorders
Efficacy of CBT
TO understand the efficacy of CBT in treatment of various mental health related problems and mental disorders, let us take a look at a review of 269 meta-analyses of CBT’s effect on various mental disorders.
The study found that multi-session CBT treatment was highly effective for cannabis populations while studies also found CBT efficient for controlling nicotine relapse in smokers.
The study also found that CBT is effective as an additional treatment along with drug treatment for acute episodes of psychosis in schizophrenia and that it had promising results in treating secondary issues related to mood, fucutoning , and social anxiety in schizophrenic samples.
CBT for depression was found to be highly effective however, it has been observed to be more effective when CBT is part of a treatment plan that involves both drug treatment and CBT rather than CBT alone. CBT as a treatment alone for bipolar has not been studied yet, however, it has been found to be effective in preventing relapse.
The efficacy of CBT on anxiety disorders were consistent and strong with large positive effects on obsessive compulsive disorder, and at least medium effect sizes for social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The study also found that CBT is effective for fortress management, anger and aggression related problems and psychological issues related to emotions and internalising disorders in children.
While CBT has been found to be somewhat effective in issues related to personality, female hormones related psychological problems, and pregnancy distress, the lack of research done in these areas make it difficult to estimate exactly how effective it is and warrants more study in these areas.
CBT Success Stories: Ways CBT helped people overcome their anxieties
Let us look at the experiences of five individuals who have shared their stories at All within the mind and who have been successful in managing their challenges related to their mental health and diagnosed mental disorders.
We have an individual whose symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder born out of surviving an abusive relationship, was making it difficult for him to travel alone, eat out, go out alone,and lived with the fear of his anxiety choking him which made him rely on mints- which he believe to prevent the choking.
While anxiety symptoms seemed typical, his experience was individual and unique to him. With CBT therapy, he was able to stop relying on mints, go out alone, and even spend time with his loved ones at restaurants.
For this individual, it is obvious that he has major cognitive distortions that have developed over his time in an abusive relationship. His anxieties seem to reflect a deep fear of being incapable of handling himself and his life.
Using techniques that help him evaluate and challenge them, while at the same time allowing him practice through role playing as he gets familiar with going out alone and with others could be one way to help him get acquainted with his own reality in the present.
With the unfortunate experience of being bullied in school, this individual who had once been vibrant and outgoing became anxious and withdrawn. She became afraid of many things and was too anxious to do anything such as going out, driving around, or even applying to interviews for a job after school.
It is obvious that her agoraphobia has developed out of the traumatic experience of being bullied which has affected her world view. Through CBT she has been successful to manage her fears by challenging them, by evaluating her irrational beliefs, and by applying her own victories and strengths to manage the symptoms of her disorder and has even applied to her first job.
A victim of domestic violence, this individual was struggling to cope with symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). She would suffer from nightmares and flashbacks and felt that she could not trust anyone.
She lived in a state of panic and was extremely anxious which limited her life- she could not go out nor meet with other people. While she was on medication for her PTSD, she could not see herself progress- she felt stuck.
CBT wasn’t easy. The process of evaluating and restructuring one’s beliefs never are. Not to mention the fact that since she struggled with trust- she must have also found it hard to trust her therapist.
However, CBT has helped her to enjoy life again- she has begun socializing with others, her confidence has increased, and she has even opened herself to a new romantic relationship.
A combination of childhood neglect and a physically abusive relationship had left this next survivor struggling with depression and low self esteem. Her low self-esteem has made her doubt her value, the intent of others leading in mistrust, and she has no hope for the future.
She had begun to withdraw from others and was oewherlemed with negative thoughts that she ruminate over. CBT helped her improve her mood by taking a closer look at her core beliefs about herself and the negative thoughts which she realised were often irrational.
Since she started therapy she has become more confident, and has begun to re-engage with life. Her mood has proved and she has also begun to resume her creative interests and have begun to be more optimistic.
Following the loss of his grandfather, this individual has become increasingly anxious about his own health. His anxiety had overwhelmed him and had consumed a large part of his life. He would constantly make frequent check ups which interfered with his lifestyle- his finances, his job, his schedule. His anxiety also interfered in his relationships.
Through active efforts in therapy, he has been able to recognize his maladaptive thought patterns and his behaviour. He has also managed to evaluate his thoughts and behaviors and restructured his beliefs with more hopeful and realistic ones.
His experience has been challenging but he has managed to overcome his health anxiety related concerns and he no longer fears for his health. He is now able to focus on other things in his life like his relationships, his career, and himself.
In this guide we have discussed what CBT is and its efficacy across various mental health concerns. We have also looked at success stories of five individuals who have undertaken CBT for their personal mental health struggles.
Frequently asked questions related to “Six CBT success stories”
What is the success rate of CBT?
Multiple research shows that CBT is one of the most effective forms of treatment for depression and anxiety with a 50-60% success rate.
How long does it take to see results from CBT?
An average number of sessions taken by individuals who have tried CBT to resolve their mental health problems reported that it takes them 10-12 sessions for them to feel better and more effective in their ability to manage their own lives.
Why is CBT so successful?
Studies find that CBT is as effective as antidepressant medication and better than medication for preventing relapse. The reason for its efficacy, as suggested by many studies, is because of its strategy to help individuals learn how to cope with their symptoms by themselves outside of therapy.
Is CBT just positive thinking?
While CBT plays a significant role in the development of positive psychology as it often uses topics like optimism, gratitude, and resilience, CBT is more than just positive thinking.
It involves objective identification of irrational thoughts and cognitive distortions, evaluating them, and challenging them by changing maladaptive behaviours. It also involves challenging core beliefs that lead to these maladaptive patterns of thinking and feeling.
What are the disadvantages of CBT?
While CBT has been found to be efficient in most mental health related issues, there are some drawbacks:
- There is a lot of commitment involved- the client and therapist need to be 100% present in the session.
- It involves homeworks which is done outside of the session and might cost you time.
- At least 10 sessions are required before you feel better- meaning that short term treatment might not help you as much.
- It doesn’t really consider the past, leaving past issues unresolved.
- CBT tends to be extremely structured which might not work with everyone as it rejects spontaneity of human experience.