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Mental health has become a major issue affecting millions of Americans in recent years. In fact, mental health has become such a dilemma that now more than forty eight million Americans identify as having a mental disorder or illness (“Mental Illness”). Methods of combating this epidemic have emerged, including psychotherapy and psychiatric methodology. Many approaches of psychotherapy have arose throughout the years of the cultivation of the field, one of the most popular and fruitful of them being cognitive behavioral therapy, otherwise known as CBT.
Cognitive behavioral therapy was engineered in the 1960’s by Dr. Aaron T. Beck while he was working at the University of Pennsylvania as a psychiatrist (“History of Cognitive Behavior Therapy”). The basis of cognitive behavior therapy that Beck developed is that depression relies on automatic thoughts; an event happens and one’s mind automatically responds to that event in a certain way that maintains the depressive state through further depressive cognitive behavior. CBT treats patients through teaching them how to identify and evaluate this cognitive behavior and how to counter it with positive cognitive behavior, which then allows them to perceive the world and the experiences they encounter more realistically and rationally. This is able to occur as CBT rests on the theory that thoughts, perceptions, and underlying beliefs about oneself and the world around them affect cognitive behavior (“Cognitive Behavior Therapy”). CBT may be a very effective form of psychotherapy, as it allows one to train their mind to counter their own cynical or depressive thoughts.
The concept of CBT was innovated with depression in mind; the effects it has upon depression have remained throughout the years, as demonstrated in a meta-analysis done in July of 2018. Within this analysis of 36 studies, which compiled a total of 3307 participants, it was found that CBT did aid in a decrease of negative thinking: negative thinking is defined as RNT or otherwise known as rumination, worry and content-independent perseverative thinking. This analysis specifically set out to determine if forms of therapy which explicitly have a decrease in RNT stated as a goal or effect within them are more successful at achieving this decrease rather than those that do not. It was found that CBT, a therapy that does explicitly claim a decrease of RNT as an effect, was more successful than that of those therapies which did not (Spinhoven). This is further evidence that supports the efficacy of CBT.
The theory of CBT was initialized with its process in association with depression; however, depression is not the only mental disorder that CBT can aid. Anxiety is another mental disorder that CBT proves to prevail against. In a study done in 2012 in which the effects of CBT and AR (applied relaxation) upon GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) in relation to somatic symptoms were studied, it was found that CBT had a notably greater effect upon the somatic symptoms of GAD than AR (Donegan). This may be seen as a solidified example of the efficacy of CBT as this study analyzed and compared the effects of CBT against AR upon somatic symptoms, which are physical symptoms of GAD such as restlessness and muscle tension; AR therapy utilizes therapeutic relaxation techniques such as specialized breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises. CBT prevailed against AR, despite the fact that CBT is a form of cognitive psychotherapy and does not directly target the psychosomatic symptoms of any disorder, exemplifying the efficacy of CBT.
One final study that demonstrates the effectiveness of CBT is that of which concerns eating disorders. A study was conducted in which an open trial within an outpatient clinic occurred in Perth, Australia that involved 125 patients with full range of varying eating disorders (Byrne). Of those 125 patients, 53% remained for the entirety of the trial, some dropping out due to longer waiting time for treatment. The patients attended, on average, 20-40 CBT sessions with a clinical psychologist throughout the study. By the end of the trial, two-thirds of all participants who had lasted throughout the entire trial were in full remission or partial remission. This study once again showed the effectiveness of CBT in not only anxiety and depressive disorder, but eating disorders as well. This demonstrates a varying and large breadth of efficacy that CBT can supply.
Overall, CBT has proved to be one of the most successful forms of psychotherapy within recent years, and has even become the gold-standard of clinical psychotherapy for many within the field. The efficacy of CBT has been demonstrated through the many examples of success within several studies among a broad range of mental health disorders and illnesses. If continued to be used within a clinical setting cognitive behavioral therapy will continue to prove itself as a champion of psychotherapeutic techniques and will aid many struggling with mental disorders and illnesses.
- Byrne, Susan M., et al. “The Effectiveness of Enhanced Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders: An Open Trial.” Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 49, no. 4, 2011, pp. 219–226., doi:10.1016/j.brat.2011.01.006.
- Donegan, Eleanor, and Michel J. Dugas. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Comparison of Symptom Change in Adults Receiving Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or Applied Relaxation.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 80, no. 3, 2012, pp. 490–496., doi:10.1037/a0028132.
- “History of Cognitive Behavior Therapy – CBT | Beck Institute.” Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Morgan Hagner Https://Www.beckinstitute.org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2016/08/Beck-Cbt-Logo-White.png, beckinstitute.org/about-beck/our-history/history-of-cognitive-therapy/.
- “Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml.
- Spinhoven, Philip, et al. “The Effects of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Depression on Repetitive Negative Thinking: A Meta-Analysis.” Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 106, 2018, pp. 71–85., doi:10.1016/j.brat.2018.04.002.
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