Cherie McMahon had always been a nervous kid. Her anxiety increased in her 20s, compounded by bouts of depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior. She was plagued by stress and self-doubt. She had insomnia. Her relationships began to suffer.
Last summer, the 34-year-old Phoenix native finally had enough.
That’s when she found a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). She dug into the work, and she’s been seeing real results.
“I’ve tried other types of therapy, but I felt like CBT gave me actionable tools I could use immediately after my sessions,” Cherie says. “CBT was challenging, but also very rewarding. If you put in the work, it can help many areas of your life.”
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
CBT is a hands-on, practical approach to thinking differently and changing behavior to solve your problems and improve your life. It’s based on the idea that our thoughts and beliefs influence our behaviors, and with CBT techniques, we can change our negative thinking and create positive change in our lives.
Working with a therapist trained in this type of treatment, Cherie examined how her distorted thinking has created problems in her life. Then, her therapist taught her strategies to change her thinking and develop more confidence in her abilities.
The change, Cherie says, has been substantial.
CBT: Solutions-based tools
“My experience with CBT was eye-opening,” Cherie says. “It made me realize that many of my negative thought patterns were dysfunctional and simply not real. It helped alleviate my anxiety by pushing me to think differently.
“Being mindful changed how I view myself, the world and my stress. I was able to walk away from my therapy sessions with solid plans and techniques to help me on a day-to-day basis.”
Cherie had a common misconception about therapy that kept her from seeking it sooner; she thought it was about sitting in an office and complaining to a therapist about her problems. She couldn’t see how that was going to help her.
“But that’s not what it was like,” she says. “It was engaging. I was given worksheets to use when dealing with with my anxiety, relationship problems and OCD. It worked, and wasn’t scary!”
Common CBT techniques
CBT is not an overnight cure-all. Cherie saw results, but she worked at it every day for three months and continues to do so. By applying the techniques below, she gradually changed how she thinks, acts and reacts to life.
CBT techniques include:
- Mindfulness, relaxation and deep breathing
- Talking with your counselor and brainstorming solutions
- Challenging beliefs that don’t serve you
- Reframing negative thoughts
- Completing reading and writing assignments
- Doing affirmations and visualization techniques
Does CBT work?
Studies show that CBT is at least as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression and anxiety disorders — but unlike medication, CBT has few side effects. It works relatively quickly, too, and benefits can be long-lasting.
Both the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the American Psychological Association recognize CBT as effective treatment for behavioral health problems including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse disorders and eating disorders. In addition:
- It can be “highly effective” in treating people with insomnia, SAMHSA reports
- More than 60 percent of people who participate in CBT substantially reduce their anxiety, according to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that CBT effectively treats depression
Understand, however, that CBT is hard work; it requires you to learn new ways of thinking and behaving, which can be uncomfortable. But if you’re willing to face your fears, it can bring real joy and health to your life.
“CBT gave me the basic foundation for changing my negative thought patterns, how I view the world and how I respond to people and situations,” Cherie says. “For anyone needing more structure in their lives and accountability, CBT is very helpful. With a little bit of practice and mindfulness, it’s easy to use the teachings of this style of therapy in daily life.”
Learn more about CBT at Scottsdale Providence
Scottsdale Providence Recovery Center offers CBT as part of our comprehensive treatment program for substance abuse and mental health disorders. Contact us today to learn how we can help you create real, effective change in your life.
By Megan Krause