Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression
Depression is a painful mental health disorder that can completely consume your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. When you’re struggling with depression, even small tasks can feel impossible. An invisible weight drags you down until you feel so low that it seems like there’s no hope. The sadness or apathy can be so overwhelming that you withdraw from your loved ones and stop taking care of yourself.
Although depression causes intense feelings of hopelessness, these beliefs are not grounded in truth. Depression is treatable, and you don’t have to feel this low forever. One of the most popular and effective treatments for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This form of therapy addresses the relationship between your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions, and it can have lifelong benefits.
If you’re experiencing depression, know that you have the power to regain control over your mental health. You should understand what cognitive behavioral therapy is, how it works, and why it can be such a great form of treatment.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of counseling that dates back to the 1960s. It’s used for a number of different mental health concerns, but it’s very commonly used to treat depression.
CBT uses a combination of cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy techniques. The founding principle of cognitive therapy is that you have the ability to overcome distressing emotions by changing your thinking habits. The core belief behind behavioral therapy is that your unhealthy behaviors are learned and can be changed.
The following are the core ideas behind cognitive behavioral therapy:
- Depression and other psychological problems are often caused by unhelpful or incorrect thinking patterns.
- Unhealthy or unhelpful behaviors also contribute to mental illness.
- You can overcome or cope with psychological issues by changing your thinking habits.
How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works
In your CBT sessions, you and your therapist will get the root of your beliefs about yourself and the world. You’ll analyze the relationship between your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions. Your therapist might help you break down specific situations that trigger painful feelings, and you also may talk more broadly about your emotions.
As you and your therapist put all these pieces together, you’ll start to gain control of your thoughts and beliefs. It becomes easier and easier to dismiss negative thoughts as illogical or unhelpful and to focus on positive thoughts instead. Once you change your thoughts, an emotional weight is lifted, leading you to feel a stronger sense of confidence, optimism, and self-esteem. Then, you can overcome the negative behaviors that reinforce unhealthy thoughts and emotions, which breaks the vicious cycle of depression.
While a lot of the work for CBT happens during your session with your therapist, you also have to learn how to apply the skills on your own. Your therapist will likely give you homework assignments to complete in between sessions. For example, they may give you a worksheet to fill out with negative automatic thoughts that you experience throughout the week. Then, you and your therapist can review and analyze the worksheet.
Examples of Cognitive Distortions
One of the most important components of cognitive behavioral therapy is identifying cognitive distortions. Our brains aren’t always unbiased, objective observers of the world. Sometimes, they come to incorrect conclusions or tell us negative, harmful ideas that simply aren’t true.
If you have depression, your mind may have fallen into particularly damaging habits of thinking. However, you can learn to identify these errors so that you no longer see them as truthful or genuine. The following are some of the most common thinking errors, or cognitive distortions, that your therapist will help you recognize:
All-or-nothing thinking: This error causes you to see everything in extremes. If you’re not perfect, you think of yourself as terrible or worthless. If one little thing goes wrong in your day, you believe the entire day is awful.
Disqualifying the positive: It’s easier to focus on the negative than the positive, and disqualifying the positive is the error of rejecting the good things you do or the good things that happen to you. While you may ruminate on a small mistake you made, you dismiss your successes as unimportant or not worth celebrating.
Mind reading: This is the belief that you know what someone else is thinking, and it’s especially common among people who have social anxiety or low self-esteem. You might tell yourself that someone is judging you or dislikes you even though you have no way of knowing what they truly believe.
Fortune telling: This cognitive distortion causes you to predict the future based on a current situation. If you’re passed up for a promotion at work, for instance, you might tell yourself that you’ll never succeed in your field.
Benefits of CBT for Depression
Cognitive behavioral therapy has so many applications in mental healthcare. The following are just some of the many benefits of CBT for depression:
CBT empowers you to take control of your thoughts.
The guiding principle behind cognitive behavioral therapy is that you are in control of your thoughts and behaviors. When you learn to recognize and dismiss irrational beliefs, you become so much more confident and assured in yourself. You no longer let depression’s deceptive voice tell you how to feel. Instead, you opt for positive, constructive thoughts, which can transform your emotional state.
CBT helps you relate more positively to yourself and the world.
Low self-esteem is one of the most common and painful symptoms of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you address the unhelpful thoughts that lead to these beliefs about yourself. This helps you feel much more positively about who you are and what your role is in the world.
CBT allows you to take an active role in the therapeutic process.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is such an empowering form of treatment because it requires your active participation. You and your therapist take a collaborative approach to counseling, so you’re involved in the analysis at every step.
CBT is a short-term therapy with long-lasting applications.
The skills you learn in cognitive behavioral therapy can continue to impact you for the rest of your life. Most people only attend CBT with a therapist for a few months, but the sessions can completely reframe and reshape your way of thinking. If you notice your mental health slipping in the future, you can independently revisit the techniques you used with your therapist to address the symptoms before they get worse.
Work With a CBT Therapist in Los Angeles
CBT is a powerful tool in your fight against depression. If you feel like your negative thoughts are out of control, it’s time to seek support from a mental health professional. Your therapist will help you get started on your journey to mental and emotional wellness, which is one of the most important steps you can take for your quality of life.
Menachem Psychotherapy Group offers cognitive behavioral therapy for our clients in the Los Angeles area. Please reach out to us today to learn more about CBT or to connect with an experienced CBT therapist.