Historically, our culture has avoided or even shunned counseling or therapy. Although there is more of an acceptance of it today, we continue to struggle as black women to get the mental health help we need.
Why? Fear of being labeled as crazy or weak. These labels have gotten us into the worst situations causing us to be depressed and full of anxiety. For those of us who have evolved, realize that therapy is beneficial, but continue to avoid sessions. Typical claims are there is no time; there are not many black counselors or therapists; thus, they will not know our struggles, don’t want anyone to find out they are going, or claim it’s not affordable.
Yes, it is hard to make the first step to counseling or therapy, but stop selling yourself short and invest in yourself. Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and depression (or more) could help you deal with inner demons and help you improve your personal, spiritual, and career life.
Everything You Need to Know About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
What is CBT?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of talk therapy that aims to change the way you process negative thoughts and behavior.
CBT is part of a broad range of therapeutic techniques that belong to psychotherapy. The basis behind the invention of this treatment is that thinking has a powerful impact on the way we behave; so, if we change our the way we look at things and the way we interpret these negative thoughts, we could ultimately change our behavior.
This therapy is goal-oriented, which means it is designed to solve a specific mental problem. For instance, if you are dealing with some type of phobia, anxiety, or depression, CBT could be beneficial for you.
In this article, we will discuss some of the basic concepts around cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as its efficacy in treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression.
What Are The Goals of CBT?
When you first start CBT, your therapist will explain the goals to expect by the end of your treatment. In general, cognitive-behavioral therapy goals are:
- To identify flawed patterns of thinking/behaving
- To reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms associated with those thoughts
- To help the patient develop adaptive responses
- To boost coping mechanisms when faced with a problem
- To prevent potential relapses
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), other specific goals that vary from one patient to another could be set before the beginning of therapeutic sessions.
Can CBT help with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
In our previous article, we discussed how generalized anxiety disorder is a public health issue that should be attended to, using all available resources. We also discussed how GAD is more problematic in African American women due to social and behavioral stigmas.
One of the treatment options for generalized anxiety disorder is CBT. Of course, it’s not always uniquely prescribed, as in some cases, pharmacological drugs are essential to control the patient’s symptoms.
In a 2017 study, researchers described the efficacy of CBT in treating GAD; at the end of the study, they concluded that “CBT as a treatment for GAD has been established as an excellent way to change pathological worries into normal worries. A lot of research must still be done to improve therapeutic tools that facilitate distancing oneself from anxious thoughts.”
Here is the process of how to use CBT to help with GAD:
Identify your negative emotions and thoughts
Your therapist will help you think clearly about the triggers of your anxiety; for instance, if you are a germophobe, it can be tough to shake someone else’s hand since it seems like a life-threatening condition! It is also difficult to objectively assess the real situation.
For this reason, your therapist will help you go through this process step by step while asking questions about how you feel when you think about shaking another person’s hand.
Question the nature of your negative thoughts
During this step, your therapist will help you assess the reality of your fears, the pros and cons of some unfounded beliefs, and how to challenge those thoughts.
This process involves the use of experiments and creating lists of pros and cons to convince your brain of the irrational fears that are affecting your performance.
Once you get through this step, it’s time to change those thoughts.
Replace those negative thoughts with realistic ones
This is the most crucial step in the entire process! By learning to replace those negative, stress-inducing thoughts with more realistic and positive thoughts, you will be on your way to cure GAD.
Your therapist will also teach you some statements to say when you get that feeling of fearful anticipation.
How effective is CBT for major depression?
Similar to GAD, depression could also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.
In a 2010 meta-analysis, scientists found that CBT may benefit patients dealing with depression during the acute phase, as well as the chronic disease.
The study also stated that cognitive behavioral therapy could be as beneficial as taking antidepressant medications to patients with severe signs and symptoms of depression.
All these findings suggest that CBT will play a more important role in the therapeutic management of patients with psychiatric disorders in the near future.
Psychologists and therapist use a variety of CBT techniques, depending on the case they encounter; these include:
- Cognitive reframing
- Exposure therapy
- Guided discover
- Behavioral experiments
- Relaxation techniques
This is by no means a full list; however, these are the most common CBT techniques used in clinical practice.
Each of the techniques mentioned above is indicated for a subset of patients that fits within that category.
Perhaps exposure therapy is the one technique you’re familiar with since it’s often used to treat different types of phobias by exposing patients to their source of fear.
Duration of CBT
The American Psychological Association suggests that the average course of CBT takes between 15 to 20 sessions; however, some therapists and patients prefer to prolong this duration to reach around 30 sessions of therapy.
Therapeutic sessions are usually weekly programmed, which means that an average 20-week treatment course will take 20 weeks to finish.
Each session lasts between 30 to 60 minutes.
Can you do CBT by yourself?
Many people ask about the possibility of doing CBT without the help of a therapist, and the answer to this question is not straightforward.
Although these studies support the benefits of self-planned CBT, working with a therapist tends to provide even more benefits.
In the end, it becomes a personal choice, whether you want to work with a therapist or not. Additionally, not all people have access or can afford to work with a therapist.
We are strong black women who are highly intelligent, but sometimes we need help. CBT is a great tool to help helps the suffering. If you don’t have time to physically go to CBT or unsure of the overall process, try new and useful technology to test it out.
Talkspace online therapy is a great place to start. After completing a short assessment, Talkspace allows you to choose the right plan and therapist for you, and then you start therapy. Talkspace is affordable, but even better, they have teamed up with multiple insurance companies to make therapy more accessible.
Take advantage of CBT as it is simple, easy to perform, and backed up by science.
If you have tried Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and depression before, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.