Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-known method of psychotherapy with several research studies supporting its effectiveness. Most therapists have training in utilizing this method clinically, as CBT is part of many graduate programs. In this article, we will explore CBT therapy in-depth, its benefits, what issues or diagnosis are treated with CBT, and explore ways in which to find the right CBT therapist near you.
What to look for in a CBT therapist
Comfort and ease are two of the most important qualities in any therapeutic relationship. Granted, relating to your therapist in this way doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it is estimated it can take up to six sessions before a client feels comfortable enough with the therapeutic relationship to be vulnerable in sharing their deepest thoughts, feelings, fears, and desires.
Therapists are people too and just like people, they are imperfect. While one client might adore their therapist, their therapist’s style of communication might be too direct for someone else. Ultimately, you have to feel safe and comfortable in your relationship with your therapist and if you don’t, keep looking for the right fit. It is not unusual for clients to try a few therapists before finding the right one for them.
Therapists should be licensed and have at least one year of clinical experience working with clients. Do specifically ask about their CBT experience, inquiring how many years they have used this methodology. Licensed therapists are required by their state boards to continue their education beyond licensure, and therefore therapists are up to date on the latest research-based methodologies such as CBT.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT, in its simplest form, focuses on how people’s thoughts and feelings affect their behavior. A therapist will inquire about their client’s thoughts and feelings about certain situations, and help the client determine if these beliefs are healthy and realistic, or if they are maladaptive. Together, they will work to establish more realistic and healthy thoughts and beliefs resulting in more consistent positive behavior.
For example, a client may seek CBT therapy because they are struggling to maintain romantic relationships. The therapist would examine the client’s beliefs and feelings about relationships. They might ask questions such as:
- What are some of your fears about being in a relationship?
- What would your ideal relationship look like?
- What happens emotionally when your expectations are not met?
- How do you communicate your fears and desires to your partner?
- What was the most positive romantic relationship you have experienced?
- What are the biggest challenges in your relationships?
If the client has struggled to maintain romantic relationships, it is likely he has a variety of negative beliefs about romance and partnerships. Let’s say the client’s biggest fear is that of abandonment. He believes no matter what he does, women will inevitably leave him.
Subsequently, he starts to pull away from his partner when he feels there is a possibility of being left. After all, being left hurts and it will hurt a lot less if he feels somewhat removed from his partner. He begins to act cold and distant, and eventually, his fear becomes reality when his partner leaves.
Most likely, he was unaware of his feelings or behavior, and instead acted out subconsciously. The therapist would discuss the situation, feelings, thoughts, and behavior – bringing these issues from the subconscious to the conscious. Once the client is aware of their actions and the beliefs that propelled the behavior, half the battle has been won.
The rest of the work would pertain to why the client fears abandonment, assessing those thoughts and instilling more adaptive thoughts to help eliminate or quiet those fears. While we all have our triggers and past experiences that influence how we think and feel, we don’t have to be captive to those beliefs. Part of the therapist’s job will be to help the client learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with those fears, and help manage his thoughts and behaviors in a healthier manner.
What does CBT treat?
CBT is used to treat a variety of mental health issues and is often a preferred form of treatment, as it is very goal oriented in terms of addressing current situations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Unlike psychoanalysis which focuses heavily on family or origin issues, CBT places more emphasis on the here and now. CBT tends to be shorter in duration than other types of therapy such as psychoanalysis.
Below are a few mental health issues CBT is used to treat:
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Relationship issues
Where can I find a CBT therapist?
As mentioned earlier, most therapists have been thoroughly trained in CBT, as it is one of the more popular forms of treatment. Dozens of research studies have determined CBT to be highly effective. Many therapists will list their preferred methods of treatment on their online bio, or they will be happy to discuss their therapeutic methods during a phone consultation.
Personal referrals from a friend or a trusted person are always a good place to start when looking to hire a therapist. If this is not an option, or you prefer to maintain privacy, Psychology Today has a good search tool. With the Psychology Today search tool, you can enter the issues of concern, insurance coverage, price, location, and more.
There are many CBT online therapists available to work with you. Many people prefer to work online with a therapist vs in person, as the comfort of having sessions in your own home can be beneficial for many. There are also many more therapists to choose from online, many of whom accept insurance and have fewer waitlists if any.
CBT therapy online or near me
Therapy online or in person is ultimately a personal preference. While some prefer to be in person, others prefer to be in the comfort of one’s own home. Research has shown parallel effectiveness in online and in-person treatment.
For those who do not live near big cities, finding a therapist without a waitlist might be challenging and therefore, online therapy is the best choice. For those who prefer to go to an office and see their therapist in person, online therapy may feel too removed for treatment to be effective. For those who are unsure how online therapy might feel, there are online platforms that offer affordable options, making it easier to try a few sessions online to determine if online therapy is right for you.
How to decide on the right therapist
Just as any professional relationship requires discernment, so too does your relationship with your therapist. You wouldn’t return to a general practitioner doctor who was rude to you and rushed you through your physical, nor should you return to a therapist who felt cold and unhelpful. Trust your instincts and proceed accordingly. It’s ok if you have to try a few therapists before finding the right fit.
Experience and technique are important. If the therapist you are interested in working with has experience working primarily with children and families but hasn’t had much experience working with couples, and you are seeking a couple’s therapist – it’s probably best to keep on looking. Finding the right therapist is only half of the solution to treating mental health issues, the other fifty percent lies with you and your motivation to work through your issues.
The pros of online therapy
- Affordable, many plans are as much or less than co-pays
- Many online therapy platforms accept insurance
- No commute is required
- If you have children, you don’t need to pay for childcare to attend a session
- Most online therapists have availability and do not have waitlists
- There is a large variety of therapists to choose from
- The comfort of being in your own home might help you to open up easier than if you were in an office setting
- There are a variety of ways in which to communicate with your therapist, such as texting, live chats, phone, and live video sessions
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a well-researched method of treatment aimed to treat a variety of mental health issues. Most therapists have had some training in this field however, it is important to inquire about the extensiveness of their training in order to find a therapist who is seasoned in CBT. Whether you are seeking treatment online or in person, CBT is an effective form of therapeutic treatment and can have positive life-changing benefits for those seeking help and support.