Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: What it is, and How it Works. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used and effective types of therapy available. Typically considered a gold standard of treatment, CBT helps people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns, which often negatively influence their emotions and behavior.  During CBT, those thought patterns are identified and challenged, and the ultimate goal is to replace them with more objective thoughts.

 

This article will explore the components of CBT, how it works on various conditions, and how virtual reality is changing the game when it comes to this type of mental health treatment. 

The components of cognitive-behavioral therapy

The main components in CBT are cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based therapies. Cognitive therapy focuses on thoughts that are responsible for negative behavioral and emotional patterns. The key is identifying the destructive thought patterns and learning to respond to them with more reality-based thinking. 

Behavioral therapy involves identifying problematic behaviors through analysis. The purpose is to replace the problematic behaviors with more effective ones. To achieve any long-term changes, therapists usually rely on a combination of cognitive and behavioral interventions. 

Mindfulness-based therapies are relatively new in CBT and focus more on the present, whereas traditional cognitive therapy focuses on the past, present, and future. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can treat a variety of mental health disorders

 

The purpose of CBT is to deconstruct things that make a person feel anxious or scared to the point where their fears are more manageable.  CBT is used to treat a broad range of mental health issues and symptoms such as:

 

Stress management

Addiction

Depression

Anxiety and panic disorders

Bipolar disorder

Eating disorders

Personality disorder

Insomnia

Anger 

Various phobias

 

Along with mental health conditions, CBT is effective in helping people cope with chronic pain. 

Some examples of CBT are activity scheduling and graded exposure assignments. Activity scheduling is often used with people who live with depression. A common symptom of depression is losing interest in favorite activities. Therefore, a therapist may work with the patient to schedule activities they typically enjoy to encourage them to engage in them again. 

Graded exposure assignments work well for people who live with anxiety disorders and phobias. Exposure is a CBT technique that helps people slowly get exposed to what triggers extreme fear or anxiety. 

Virtual Reality and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

A significant element of CBT involves facing fears rather than avoiding them. CBT uses role-playing to help patients prepare for situations that may cause them anxiety or fear by teaching them techniques to manage their symptoms in the moment. 

Virtual reality therapy is emerging as an effective tool in supplementing traditional CBT. 

VR-based therapy does not necessarily have better results than traditional CBT, but there are several benefits to using it in place of or as a supplement to direct exposure. Virtual reality CBT provides a safe and comfortable environment for the patient and allows the mental health professional to create and manage the VR environments. 

 

Because VR has become more accessible and grown in popularity, it has also become a cost-effective measure of providing this valuable therapy. VR is used within the CBT framework with anxiety, phobias, substance use, eating disorders, and pain management. In some cases, patients can do VR therapy at home along with in-person treatment. 

 

Amelia offers VR restaurant environments for patients with eating disorders to help them control their fear of eating and objectively observe their own body image, which can often be distorted from their perspective. There are also environments to help patients with Amaxophobia( fear of driving) that expose them to busy highways, heavy traffic, and other driving scenarios from a safe location. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about VR therapy, access our directory of specialists, and schedule a session with a VR health professional nearby to you.