The field of therapy is grounded in many different approaches, therapeutic models, and theories. Not one specific theory or model is going to work for each unique individual, couple, or family, so I find it useful to adapt to each client and work from an approach that best suites them. As a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), I work with many young adult clients that are suffering from anxiety and depression. For this type of clientele, one of my go-to models is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
CBT is a step-by-step cognitive model that specifically helps individuals better understand how their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors function and interact with one another. One of the aspects that I like most about CBT is that it is clear and it allows clients (and therapists!) to process and challenge negative assumptions and beliefs about themselves, others, and their environment (Gillihan, 2016).
A therapist who applies CBT in their work focuses on building a collaborative relationship with the client. However, building a therapeutic alliance is not unique to CBT – the therapeutic relationship is critical in all theories and models. What is unique about the collaborative relationship in CBT is that the therapist guides the client to “use what is whole in them to heal what is broken” (Gillihan, 2016). This collaborative principle highlights the joining of two perspectives – the idea that the clinician is the expert on CBT, and the client is the expert on their life. The CBT process encompasses other principles that will be briefly explored.
One principle of CBT is that it is time limited. This model is designed to provide the greatest amount of benefit to the client in the shortest amount of time possible, with a general time frame of 10-15 sessions. The goal of this time frame is to reduce human suffering and cost (Gillihan, 2016). Another principle of CBT is that it is structured. CBT is structured in the sense that the client and therapist together have a clear vision of what to expect and where things are headed (Gillihan, 2016). The structure of this model is goal oriented and it builds on itself – the earlier therapeutic sessions and work lay the foundation for future sessions (Gillihan, 2016).
The two principles of CBT that I especially like are the principles stating that CBT is skills oriented, and that CBT emphasizes practice. Building effective skills and practicing them is key! In the skills oriented aspect of CBT, the client learns techniques that help them navigate and alleviate the issues they are dealing with (Gillihan, 2016). These skills are meant to build on each other, and the purpose of these skills is for the client to take them and apply them after treatment is over. The practice principle of this model is straightforward – the more one practices the learned skills in between sessions and beyond, the more positive results they see!
What I have shared in this blog article is just a brief glimpse of what CBT is and has to offer. I love how this model helps client and therapist create a sound therapeutic relationship, and I appreciate its exploration of the multifaceted aspects that make up each unique person. If you are interested in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, please contact us!
Gillihan, S. J. (2016). Retrain your brain: Cognitive behavioral therapy in 7 weeks. Berkeley,
CA: Althea Press.