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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy (psychotherapy) used to treat a wide range of mental health problems. While not the only effective treatment that therapists use, CBT is unique in that it is an evidence-based method, scientifically proven to show results for most people.

 

In addition to this, CBT can help you quickly identify and cope with specific challenges and stressors within your life. There are several core principles that CBT uses to decrease psychological distress:

  1. Learned patterns or unhelpful behaviors lead to psychological problems
  2. Faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking lead to psychological problems
  3. Problem-solving skills can help individuals cope with difficult situations.
  4. Using mindfulness to learn how to relax your mind and body
  5. Learning ways to develop a greater sense of confidence in your abilities
  6. Gaining a better understanding of your behaviors and thoughts to reevaluate them within situations
  7. Learning coping skills to decrease distress and relieve symptoms to increase the quality of life

 

Benefits of CBT

 

CBT is designed to address a wide range of mental health problems and is often a shorter form of therapy than traditional types of psychotherapy. CBT is a widely taught theoretical orientation that many therapists use in their practices. While every therapist practices a bit differently, this method has a relatively standard set of principles and rules to treat clients effectively.

 

Common Mental Health Problems that could Benefit from CBT

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may help improve numerous mental health problems, including (but not limited to):

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Substance and Alcohol Misuse

 

What to Expect During CBT

When receiving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a clinician will rarely use every technique and strategy described earlier in the article. Instead, CBT emphasizes a collaborative and structured approach to therapy tailored to the client’s needs.

 

This collaborative approach helps teach the client to become their own therapist within their lives outside of therapy. Through homework, exercises in and outside of treatment, and the development of coping and problem-solving skills, clients learn how to challenge and change their behaviors and thought patterns to increase their quality of life and decrease psychological distress.

 

Additionally, CBT therapists also tend to focus on what is happening currently in the person’s life instead of the person’s past. While some history of the person’s life is necessary for therapy, the primary focus of CBT is to develop ways of coping with life moving forward.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Length of Therapy

 

CBT is generally considered a form of short-term therapy. Expect traditional CBT to last between 5-20 sessions, depending. However, it is essential to discuss what length (and type) of treatment is right for you with your therapist to ensure the most beneficial outcome possible.

Covid-19 and Mental Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 has had a negative effect on mental health for a lot of people. Mental health includes our emotional, social, and psychological well-being and has the ability to affect how we think, how we feel, and what actions we take such as how we handle stress. This being said, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to influence how we live our daily lives, it is important to understand its impacts on our mental health. 

 

Throughout the years, a large body of research has found that social isolation and loneliness have been linked to a decrease in mental and physical health. In fact, the former US Surgeon Vivek Murthy has recently brought this to the public’s attention, pointing out that social isolation and loneliness has the potential to reduce lifespan and increase risk for mental health issues and physical illnesses. 

 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a need to be much more isolated and distanced than many of us have experienced in our lives. While it is important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals to practice safe and effective methods for fighting Covid-19 transmissions such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and sheltering in place if advised, it can be difficult to fulfill basic needs, such as social interaction, necessary for mental and physical well-being.

 

According to health professionals, Covid-19 may be a part of our lives for longer than any of us would like. Because of this, it may be helpful to implement a self-care and wellness routine in order to take care of your mental and physical health for the long haul.

 

Eat Balanced and Nutritious Meals

 

At this point you have probably found that you are much more sedentary than you used to be in your life pre-Covid. With the majority of gyms still closed and as you’ve settled into your WFH routine, you may find it increasingly difficult to make healthy and balanced decisions at meal times. 

 

Because of this, it may be helpful to try out meal-prepping and mindful grocery shopping. This could include creating a list of ingredients and meals you want to make for the week so you’re more focused when you’re walking down the aisles at the grocery store.

 

While it may be tempting to order out food (and by all means order every once in a while to support local businesses in your community), try to limit take out as best you can and stick to foods that make you feel good. Nobody is the same, so find what works best for you and what makes you feel good and stick to that! 

 

On the same note, don’t forget to drink water! It’s easier to forget to drink water when your regular routine is disrupted but hydration is just as important for mental and physical well being as eating a healthy and balanced diet is. 

 

Get a Good Sleep Schedule Going 

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Practicing good sleep hygiene is integral to mental health and wellness. In fact, research conducted at Harvard University states that sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression and may actually be a risk factor associated with developing an anxiety disorder. 

 

In order to decrease your risk of developing mental health issues, focus on getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night and going to bed at around the same time every night. While it’s tempting to want to binge-watch Netflix in bed, it may also be helpful to only use your bedroom for sleeping in order to associate that space with relaxation and rest.

 

Stay Connected 

Luckily, it’s 2021 and technology is advanced enough to bring us together in more ways than one. Despite not being able to go out like we used to, there are alternative ways to gain that social connection needed for your mental well-being. 

 

For instance, try planning a time when you and a friend or family member can video chat. While it can’t beat in-person social gatherings, talking to someone you love can help decrease the feeling of isolation and loneliness which will help increase your mental well-being. 

 

Even if video chat isn’t available to you, a quick phone call to someone in your support system can be a great boost for your mental health and overall mood. 

 

Find a Work/Life Balance that Works for You

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Before Covid-19, it was easier to be able to separate work from the rest of your life. However, as more people move to working remotely, that separation can get a little muddy which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. 

 

Because of this blurred divide between your work and home life, it may be helpful to separate your areas for work and play. Much like only using your bedroom for sleep, try sectioning off a particular area in your home that is solely dedicated to work. This way when the work day is over, it is easier to transition into home mode by physically moving yourself out of that space. 

 

Seek Help if you Feel Overwhelmed or Unsafe

 

Living through a global pandemic is hard and it is ok to not be ok. If you start feeling overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you may want to harm yourself or others, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

 

Here is a list of sources that may be useful for you. In addition to this list, you can always reach out to our office and make an appointment (in-person or via telehealth) for psychotherapy and counseling. 

 

Resources:

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – Free and confidential support for people in distress, 24/7.

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment referral and information, 24/7.

Picture of the Future

As Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, is called insanity.

You may have tried many times to lead a healthy lifestyle or change a defective habit, but your attempts didn’t go far. It’s possible that you truly never saw your healthy self in that future, doing what’s needed. You could have kept trying the same methods without regard to different possibilities because it just never occurred to you that you are capable of doing it differently. That’s when your default future was created.

I have several questions for you. Try to answer them before going further.

What’s your picture of the future?

How do you envision it?

What is your place in it?

Are you the same person or do you differ from your current self somehow?

Does it align with your dream life or are they two separate entities?

You may think of these questions as irrelevant and not related to your current situation. However, without answers to them, you can’t move forward and expect a particular result.

Don’t let the past define the future, use it as a learning experience, not as a measure of what’s to come. When I realized that no matter how I picture my future if I don’t change the way I see myself in it, I will keep crashing into my default view of it while my dreams will be somewhere else on a side. Once your picture of yourself changes to reflect many possibilities of what can be, you can start changing your default future, and your actions will align with it.

When our perception shifts, behavior follows. As I was creating a new vision of myself, I started doing what was needed to go along with that vision. Things began happening almost automatically, new circumstances began to unfold, new people and opportunities came about. Your mind miraculously creates the reality you truly believe in.

What can you do to rewrite your future?

8 Brain Facts from Neuroscientists to Celebrate Brain Awareness Month

While the brain may be one of the smaller organs in the human body, it makes up for it with its intricacies and uniqueness. In fact, neuroscience and psychology are still learning new things about it each year. In honor of Brain Awareness Month this March, we wanted to share with you some interesting facts about the brain to show you just how amazing it is. Here are some of our favorite brain facts:

The Brain Can’t Feel Pain 

The brain itself doesn’t have any pain receptors. The brain has layers of blood vessels that do contain pain receptors, but the actual brain does not have any which makes it impossible for the brain to feel pain.

While you might think your brain is hurting when you get a headache, it is actually the muscles and tissues surrounding your brain that send pain signals to it, signalling discomfort. This is why neurosurgeons can perform brain surgery on a patient who is wide awake!

Multitasking is a Lie 

While we are all guilty about thinking we can (and are good at) multitasking, the truth is that the brain itself can’t focus on two tasks at once. Interestingly, the brain actually switches from task to task at such a rapid pace that it appears like you are doing two tasks at once.

This switching between tasks is illustrated by talking on the phone while driving. Because you can’t actually use your phone and drive at the same time, your brain may miss important information on the road, making it very dangerous to do both tasks together.

Exercise is Good for the Brain and the Body 

Exercise creates a form of physical stress for your body during your workouts. While long-term stress is bad for your brain and mental health in general, this type of exercise stress has actually been shown to help manage general stress, making you more resilient in the future against stressors.

According to research, physical activity initially triggers and spikes the brain’s stress response but found that people who regularly exercise have lower overall levels of hormones like cortisol and epinephrine that are associated with stress.

Not only this, but exercise has been shown to be beneficial for your mental health. In fact, it has been shown that people that exercise consistently have overall lower rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than those that are sedentary.

Sleep Cleans your Brain 

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that sleep is key to help keep your brain functioning at its best. While you’re asleep, your brain is very active and uses that time to remove toxins that accumulate throughout the day.

Sleep also assists in a number of important brain functions like making sure that neurons in your brain communicate with each other effectively and can help to decrease the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms.

While everyone is different, it is generally suggested that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.

The Brain’s Storage Space is Vast

While the amount of information stored in the brain’s trillions of synapses (a component of a neuron) is not unlimited, it is large enough that the amount of information we learn is not limited by the brain’s storage capacity. In fact, other factors influence our ability to learn information such as our attention span, how we learn the information, and what type of information. For instance, language generally becomes ingrained within our neural pathways early in life which makes it more difficult to learn a second language later in life.

The Brain is Visual 

Research from the University of California San Diego recently found that the brain has a stronger response to pictures than it does to text. Interestingly, participants in this study were influenced by a picture that was only shown for 10 milliseconds. This illustrates that the brain can pick up and process pictures much faster than text. The saying that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ may be more accurate than we thought.

The Brain can Rewire Itself 

Through neuroplasticity, the brain has the ability to rewire, form, and reorganize its synaptic connections. Until recently, neuroscientists believed that once a brain function was interrupted by injury or disease, that function would never be recovered. However, recent research has uncovered the knowledge that the brain is plastic which means that it has the ability to change itself and adapt after an injury.

Brains Can Speak to Each Other 

While neuroscience and mental health are closely aligned, mirror neurons take it to another level. Mirror neurons are a special type of neuron found throughout the brain that become activated when we witness somebody else’s actions or emotions.

These neurons help us with learning tasks from seeing it being performed like dribbling a basketball. However, it also helps us empathize with others. When we see someone crying, our mirror neurons light up and ‘mirror’ their emotions, which is why we sometimes find ourselves crying too!

If you want to learn more about neuroscience in psychology or are interested in learning about neuropsychological testing opportunities, read more about our services here.

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