Positive Change Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
July 20, 2018 | 3-minute read
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a powerful tool to promote positive behavior changes. The treatment uses self-awareness and other strategies to help overcome negative habits and thought patterns.
“It’s a working therapy. It’s hands-on experience,” says Diane, a U.S. Air Force Veteran. “I had to write events out and then work through each event.”
The guiding principle of CBT is that a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions are all connected. By recognizing negative thoughts, people may be able to change their behavior to healthier alternatives.
“It’s catch it, check it, change it,” notes Richard, a U.S. Air Force Veteran. “It’s looking at how you think and where the thoughts come from and what you do with them when you get them.”
Veterans experiencing PTSD, depression, anxiety, or problems with drugs may benefit from CBT. People experiencing these conditions generally have developed negative thought patterns, or “stuck points.” If left unaddressed, they can grow into unhealthy behaviors that may increase mental, physical, or emotional distress.
Does CBT Work?
CBT is one of the most studied and effective talk therapy treatments. Research has demonstrated that CBT is as effective as medication in relieving symptoms of conditions like depression. “It’s a good way to talk things out and get to the root of the problem,” says Mike, a U.S. Army Veteran.
The goal of CBT is to help patients become more aware of their negative thoughts. Over time, they can realize that the distress they feel comes not from the event itself, but rather their reaction to it. By changing their perspective, they relate to their thoughts in a different way. Reducing sharp emotional reactions can be the first step toward making a change.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy basically changes the way you look at things,” says Hodari, a Veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard. “Like if someone is driving down the street and they cut me off … do I react with road rage, or do I really think about the situation? Maybe they just need to get to work early.”
CBT also emphasizes goal-setting and problem-solving strategies, which can empower Veterans and help them improve other areas of their lives.
CBT in Practice
Cognitive behavioral therapy takes collaboration between a Veteran and their therapist. They work together to set goals and manage progress throughout the treatment.
CBT is usually delivered in one session per week for around one hour, either in one-on-one or group sessions. Treatment can last from a few weeks to several months or longer. While each Veteran may take part in similar CBT exercises, no two experiences are the same.
Common CBT exercises include recording thoughts in a journal. This can help raise awareness of how you react to events. CBT also uses exercises for relaxation, pain relief, and problem-solving.