Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered the gold standard in psychotherapy. Numerous clinical trials have found CBT to be effective for a spectrum of emotional health challenges, from anxiety and depression to addiction and schizophrenia.
CBT involves identifying, assessing, and finding ways to push back on the negative thoughts that often underlie many negative feelings. For example, if I’m stuck thinking that I will definitely be unable to give a good presentation to my colleagues tomorrow, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and dread that fuel unhelpful behaviors like avoiding finishing up my preparation.
Exploring the thoughts underlying negative feelings and behaviors doesn’t always feel like a very natural process. But with practice, usually in the form of “homework” to help you practice identifying and “talking back” to these negative thoughts, best therapists in huntsville al it can become second nature. Over time, CBT can help you to transition from the skewed lens of depression and anxiety to a more nuanced and balanced perspective on your daily life.
Behavioral therapies encompass several treatments that focus on helping your body and brain build new connections through healthier behaviors. These connections are both psychological (developing healthier cognitive and emotional habits) and neurobiological (improved connectivity between brain regions involved in strong emotional responses).
For example, one form of treatment called behavioral activation seeks to lift mood by slowly increasing and reintegrating activities that are fun, physical, social or give a sense of achievement back into your daily life. It is often used as a component of CBT.
Physically, anything from taking a walk to incorporating the stairs into your daily routine is a great way to get your body and mind moving again. Socially, calling or texting an old friend may also help you gradually feel more connected and engaged with others. Simultaneously addressing both the psychological and behavioral sides of mental health can often synergistically kick-start progress toward feeling better overall.
If you have a particular phobia, a therapist might use graduated exposure to help you relearn how to tolerate the normal distress that can accompany uncomfortable experiences. The goal is not to eliminate all feelings of distress, but rather to relearn that your body and brain can withstand normal distress without shutting down.
Dialectical behavioral therapy
Often considered a type of CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy is ideal for those who chronically struggle with managing their emotions. DBT focuses on learning skills to help you tolerate distress and navigate challenging interpersonal relationships.
One core skill of DBT is mindfulness. Mindfulness entails finding ways to “declutter” your mind from past emotional challenges and focus on what is happening in the moment. A common mindfulness strategy utilized in DBT is guided imagery. This involves repeatedly imagining a beautiful and relaxing physical environment, best therapists in huntsville al such as a beach, mountain meadow, or cozy family kitchen, both to prevent and improve feelings of stress. A common DBT strategy to tolerate emotional distress is sensory grounding. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, sensory grounding involves taking a step back and finding five objects you see in the physical environment, four objects you can touch, three sounds you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This gradual experience helps take the mind’s focus off an emotionally distressing experience to calm both body and mind.