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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Have you ever felt a craving for your favorite ice cream or treat? What happens next? You might think to yourself “I would love to eat some chocolate ice cream right now” and before you know it, you are headed to the store or to your local ice cream parlor. In this situation, you may have a feeling of hunger which led to the words “I want ice cream” to pop into your head (a thought) which led to the trip to the store.  


Do you ever wonder if all these thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected, like points on a triangle? It turns out, they are! The problem for many of us is that when our thoughts are negative, it can lead to negative feelings and destructive behaviors. For example, if your thought, “I want ice cream” creates a feeling of worry, it may lead to secondary negative thoughts like “Ice cream is bad for me” or “Ice cream will make me fat” which can exacerbate the worry and result in overall discomfort. People who struggle with managing their negative thoughts and behaviors often show symptoms of mental illness, including Anxiety Disorders or Depression.  CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is often helpful in relieving these symptoms. 


What is CBT?


CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a model of cognitive therapy that operates on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected, even though we might not

realize it. Now, imagine that each of these functions of the brain:

thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, occupies one point on a triangle.

When one point on the triangle shifts, it has an effect on the other

two points. The triangle changes shape.

For example, if you think that it will be very cold outside and you don’t

like feeling cold, you might choose to wear warm clothes or avoid

going out for long periods of time. Yet, if you did not think it was

going to be cold, you might behave differently by choosing lighter

clothes or participating in outdoor activities.  

The work focuses first on how to identify the differences between

the three points of the triangle.  Once you have the skills to separate and identify your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you can start to identify and change negative thoughts that make you feel bad. The main principle of CBT is the belief that If you can change how you think about something, it will ultimately change how you feel and behave. 


how can cbt be helpful for me?


CBT has been studied for its effectiveness in difficulties ranging from low self-esteem to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Psychosis. CBT techniques have been studied and found to be beneficial for children, adolescents, and adults.


CBT has been shown to be helpful with adults and adolescents who struggle with various disorders including:


  • Depression/Mood disorders

  • Anxiety Disorders

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Stress

  • Substance Use Disorders

  • Eating Disorders

  • Medical Disorders/ Chronic Pain

  • Stress

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders

  • Low self-esteem

  • Grief and loss


Just to name a few.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you learn to recognize the negative thoughts that you might be struggling with, and the underlying belief system that might be driving those thoughts. The approach then teaches you how to cope with these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and practice techniques that will build your confidence to restructure and overcome them. 


CBT has been studied and proven to be effective for treating anxiety, schizophrenia, suicidal disorders, substance and alcohol abuse, ADD, insomnia, migraine headaches, chronic pain, colitis, fibromyalgia, and much much more. (You can find out more information about this research here). 

Now that you know what CBT is and how it can help you, let’s address two disorders that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is particularly effective in treating. Anxiety Disorders and Depression are two of the most common difficulties that individuals struggle with in the US.


Cbt for anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the most popular and effective therapeutic treatments for anxiety. CBT can help treat different types of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and a range of different specific phobias and fears. Symptoms of these disorders can include difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, intrusive and pervasive thoughts, racing heartbeat, increased breathing rate, persistent fears, and avoidance of situations that are feared. CBT techniques help you identify the negative thoughts connected to these patterns of anxieties that affect how you deal with everyday stressors. 


Cbt for depression


Depression and the symptoms that stem from this condition can

be a difficult cycle that we can get stuck in. If you are experiencing

symptoms like persistent sadness/hopelessness, lack of energy,

disruptions in sleep, changes in appetite, problems concentrating,

or loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, it can be

extremely difficult to break this cycle without the right guidance

and support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is ideal for treating

depression because CBT focuses on the two main elements that

drive the symptoms of Depression: thoughts and feelings. 

While you are struggling with symptoms of depression, you might dwell on the negative emotions that you are feeling at the time. During those tough times, we tend to focus on the mistakes we have made and continue to think negatively about ourselves. CBT takes those negative, sad, or angry thoughts and teaches you how to turn them into something more positive. The change in thinking is the first step toward reversing some of the symptoms of depression.

How does cognitive therapy help overcome an anxiety disorder or depression?

  • Identify negative thoughts. Our thoughts are not always truthful. Oftentimes, when we are feeling anxious or depressed, we are experiencing untruthful or distorted thoughts.  By asking ourselves what we were thinking and whether it is true when we start to feel bad, it can help reduce the power of that negative thinking. 

  • Challenging those negative thoughts. Next, challenge those negative, or distorted, thoughts. Can you find concrete evidence to support the truthfulness of these thoughts? What is the likelihood that your fear will become a reality? If the thinking is truly distorted, why pay attention to them? When your thoughts create significantly uncomfortable feelings, they are most likely untruthful? So challenge yourself to determine if the things that worry or upset you will, in reality, affect you.

  • Restructure your negative thoughts into more positive thoughts. Negative thoughts are often false, untruthful and distorted. When you recognize those false images or words in your head, you can restructure them with positive and more realistic images of what might happen. This practice changes the shape of the triangle and will work toward reducing anxiety and depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches you how to work through each of these stages in a healthy and effective way.


cbt is part of the solution to your problem


It might seem as though Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sounds simple. Although the concept is simple, it can take some time to practice and use these techniques effectively. By becoming more mindful of your thinking in situations that create anxiety, depression, or fear, your actions will change. This will lead to an overwhelming breakthrough in developing your abilities to reduce uncomfortable feelings and in the way you perceive and deal with negative situations. CBT is one treatment modality that will give you the tools to start your healing process. 



Dena Lampert is the executive director of Triangle Cognitive Therapy and one of only a handful of therapists on Long Island who has achieved a diplomat from the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. The rest of our therapists not only have training in CBT, but also in DBT, Trauma, and Mindfulness/Meditation techniques. Our highly experienced therapists can teach and support you in overcoming your symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. You need support from people that know how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works and can teach you the skills to improve your life

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