So is CBT just for mental disorders?
The short answer is NO, here is the long answer below 😉
CBT as a helpful tool for Self-development and well-being
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short term but focused and goal-oriented type of therapy that is used widely by many therapists. Even therapists coming from backgrounds not specifically related to CBT may, at some point, use CBT exercises and tools. CBT deals with the thoughts, thinking process and attitudes of a person. It also deals with the active part of a person’s life (how will my client react in such and such a situation, are there any patterns of behaviors, is my client having trouble getting active even on once pleasant activities, as is the case in depression…). There is also the emotional side that comes into focus: is my client avoiding feeling certain emotions, or avoiding situations in order to avoid these feelings? Does my client need help in regulating their emotions (for example, if my client has a tendency to feel profound sadness and feelings of ominous disaster ahead as reactions to everyday situations that make it difficult for her / him to enjoy life).
Because CBT has traditionally focused on these questions, it is seen as treating psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety related disorders. There was a time when its only usage was in dealing with complex psychological issues. However continuing research shows that CBT actually helps with personal well-being along with paving a way for leading an effective life. The body of research concerning this is Cognitive Behavioral Coaching (CBC) which is a blend of solution-focused, cognitive, behavioral, rational emotive therapies, along with concepts from goal-setting and social cognitive theories (Palmer & Szymanska, 2008). Life coaching groups and programmes can also be created based on CBC and solution-focused techniques. In one study, it was shown that there was an increase in goal striving, well-being and hope and that some of these positive effects were still present at 30 weeks post-study (Green et al., 2006).
But one doesnt necessarily have to seek out a CBC Coach in order to benefit from these effects. And vice versa. The boundaries between CBC and CBT are sometimes fuzzy. For example, in the case of CBT, the therapist guides the client in order for him / her to provide solutions to their problems. The client and therapist both collaborate in order to attain the goals that were set when the therapy began. At times, clients can hit upon obstacles during the therapy and the therapist may use prompts or even directly suggest solutions, thus acting more as a coach.
Inversely, a CBC Coach may focus on the client’s view of life* and their attitudes at some point during the sessions, thus taking on the role of a therapist for that brief moment.
CBT and CBC are both goal oriented, and goals are formulated and followed one by one, sometimes together. The goals can be achieved in 8-20 sessions, sometimes more depending on the specific treatment plan. As a person’s thinking is changed from a rigid or irrational belief then new perspectives are introduced that help the client work towards improvement. It’s like building lego. The change of perspective leads the person to change his or her behaviors and to move towards more rational responses. It also leads them to solve their problems in such a way that past mistakes don’t become cyclic in nature (Beck, 2011).
CBC / CBT will assist in:
(This list is non exhaustive of course)
- Career development (finding one’s true vocation, passion, values and exploring the fundamental aspects of the person’s personality).
- Improving the quality of relationships (see Ryff & Keyes, 1995).
- Working on low self-esteem issues and how they relate to lower performance (see Ryff & Keyes, 1995).
- Getting food intake back on track using motivational skills and motivational coping statements to go through the process successfully (see Galperin, 2016).
- Striving to achieve a better work-life balance. Initially, the person may be asked to undertake other types of activities such as spending time alone doing anything that is refreshing and relaxing. The therapy can focus on spending time with loved ones and nurturing environment. It can also focus on meditation and perspective changing towards various views (see Galperin, 2016).
Self-doubt is a common issue for us social beings. But we are not likely to seek out therapeutic help for this unless it is part of an overarching mental health issue, such as depression. This could be an opportunity for some CBC then. Sometimes these life issues can be managed on our own, as is the case for this blog entry I particularly appreciate:
How does the client achieve success?
A client will have to be aware of the change he or she wants in their life. The client formulates a goal that is realistic and time limited. This will help them in achieving it with a positive view. The journey of well-being will start with small steps that, put together, make up a bigger picture of positive change (see Slade, 2010).
* This is done by working on the attitudes, perspectives and emotional responses of the client (Beck, 2011).
Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. Guilford Press.
Dyrbye, L. N., & Shanafelt, T. D. (2011). Commentary: medical student distress: a call to action. Academic Medicine, 86(7), 801-803.
Green, L.S., Oades, L.G., & Grant, A.M. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused life coaching: Enhancing goal striving, well-being, and hope. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(3), 142 – 149.
Keyes, C. L. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 73(3), 539.
Palmer, S., & Szymanska; K. (2008). Cognitive behavioral coaching: An integrative approach. Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 86 – 117). New York, NY Rutledge / Taylor & Francis Group; US.
Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(4), 719.
Slade, M. (2010). Mental illness and well-being: the central importance of positive psychology and recovery approaches. BMC Health Services Research, 10(1), 1.