Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: An Overview
Research on mood disorders has shown us two very interesting things. First, that our mood states can cause us to think in characteristic ways. Second, how we think can influence our mood states. This is good news because it gives us the opportunity to change how we feel by changing how we think!
The strategies that are presented are from a counseling approach called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the premise that how we perceive and think about the world directly impacts how we feel and behave. You can see this concept illustrated below. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all impact and are impacted by each other. Strategies of CBT intervene mostly at the thought level to impact feelings, but sometimes the behavioral level as well.
Here is an example of how this works. As you are sitting there reading this information you might not be thinking of too many other things. For a few moments, let yourself think about a recent event that elicited a strong emotional reaction for you. It could be something that was embarrassing or exciting, or something that led you to feel angry, sad, or frightened. You might close your eyes and think about this event in some detail for at least one or two minutes. Be sure to notice what you feel when you do this. After you spend a little time thinking about this event recall what you experienced. Did you notice feeling even slightly different than you did before this exercise? What emotions or physical sensations did you have? Did your thoughts cause you to do anything like fidget, clench your fists, smile, frown, or furrow your eyebrows?
Other examples that might help demonstrate the power of thoughts are if you suddenly remember something important you forgot to do, or something you have to do sometime soon that you are really dreading. Thoughts like these can elicit feelings like apprehension, fear, guilt, anger, or sadness. Thinking about other things like sexual activity, having to speak in front of a large group, going back to work on Monday morning, giving a gift to someone special to you, winning the lottery, and so forth can all elicit some change in how you feel emotionally and physically.
The common theme among all these examples is that simple thoughts alone can cause changes in how we feel. You were just sitting where you are, not really experiencing the events themselves. It was the thought about the event that caused the feeling. If these examples didn't seem to do it for you, consider the scenario on the next page.