Cognitive Behavioral Therapy | Change Your Mind and Your Life

Cognitive Therapy in Seattle:

Learn to Masterfully Observe and Manage Your Mind!

Grant Yourself Six Sessions | Own Your Own Mind!

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

                            ~ Winston Churchill

Patrick J. Hart Psy.D.
Seattle Private Practice

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The Reflections, essays, and summaries below have been written anonymously by various clients I have served across the years. Most of these excerpts (with some augments by me) are cut and pasted from homework exercises that were completed as people learned to understand their psychological workings and to make the best use of their own minds. Cognitive behavior therapy helps us master the mind that goes with us — wherever we go!

a man with a sticky note on his forehead

Watch Your Mind!
Dynamic Interaction: Belief ~ Emotion ~ Behavor

Cognitive behavioral therapy is so named because it focuses on the dynamic interaction of cognition (belief), emotion (feeling) and behavior (action). The practice is based on developing a clear understanding of just how our thoughts (beliefs) come to determine or shape our feelings (emotional experience) and therefore guide our choices for the actions (behavior) we take.

Conditioned Response

Another way to view this dynamic is to see the process as that of a stimulus (an event that takes place in a person’s world) “causing” that person to have a thought (i.e. mental interpretation or judgment) which then gives rise to an emotional reaction. Through this dynamic process emotions get associated with various stimuli (various events). This is how “pathological” fear, which is frequently distorted judgment, starts and it is often where anxiety or depression begins. An outgrowth of anxious and depressive thinking . . .

Irrational Beliefs: Maladaptive Thinking

What results, in someone with a propensity for negative thoughts (irrational beliefs) is a “cognitive-behavioral problem cycle” where, for example, a lack of self-esteem (rating oneself negatively) leads to complaints of “low self-esteem” (arbitrary negative beliefs about the self and self-berating) and a perceived sense of helplessness and hopelessness around accomplishing effective personal change. The way to break the cycle is not simply to decrease or get rid of maladaptive thoughts and beliefs but rather to recognize thoughts for what they are: maladaptive self-ratings, not correct, believable, or accurate reflections of reality. Both depression and anxiety problems respond well to various forms of cognitive treatment.

Reality Distortion: Changing Your Mind . . .

The client, with help and guidance from the therapist learns to see and become aware of these maladaptive irrational beliefs, which are really distortions of reality. He or she learns to dispute irrational beliefs and to develop functional thinking habits, which is termed adaptive thinking. This type of treatment seeks to repair and modify the reasons that people feel anxious or depressed — and modify the behaviors that are associated with such maladaptive thinking. To use a 12-step term, you learn to stop your “stinking thinking”!

Rational Beliefs: Adaptive Thinking

This is quite a clever psychotherapeutic “prescription.” It takes loads of dedicated rehearsal and practice to become a “masterful” (psychologically adaptive) thinker. Psychologists and counselors are trained to help others practice such adjustments in their judgments of the world, themselves, and others. This type of behavioral counseling is based on an abundance of scientific evidence that shows it to be an extremely useful adjunct to the resolution of anxiety and depression.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Used to Treat?

This treatment is especially well suited for the alleviation of behavior-based problems such as alcohol and drug addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, avoicance . . . worry, panic disorder, phobias,  and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obviously, CBT is useful for the broad range of psychological, behavioral, and emotional problems.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Like?

This treatment was developed in the 1970s by a psychologist named Aaron Beck who grew frustrated with the pace of traditional psychotherapy. It is intended to be a relatively short-term treatment but it still has long-term mental health as its objective. Most treatments go 3 to 6 months but length of treatment is highly dependent upon the needs of the person being counseled.

Principles Behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The principles behind this type of treatment are based on the philosophy of the Stoics, a school of thought that was prominent during the Greco-Roman period. It takes its cues from two central tenets of Stoicism. The first is that life, by its very nature, involves good and bad, that pain and obstruction are normal parts of being alive, and that both positive and negative events should be met with a certain detachment, a certain intellectual distance. The second significant component of stoicism is a skeptical view of superstition.

Basic Assumptions

Cognitive therapy takes these two basic ideas and turns them into a process of inductive reasoning whereby the client is able to view his or her actions and reactions using an inductive or logic process. The goal of treatment is to demystify the chain of events that leads to depression, negative thoughts, irrational fears, anxiety, etc. and to provide psychological and emotional tools that the client can use whenever the feelings arise.

What Are Sessions Like?

Cognitive therapy is a process of learning to observe our thinking and learning to evaluate just how well our interpretations work for us (adaptive or maladaptive conclusions). We can learn to assess our own thinking and evaluate how this actually works for us. We learn to look, and see . . . just how our thinking functions: how we interpret the events of our lives. Does this belief (my conclusion) really work for me, or does this belief-conclusion somehow backfire for me?

It is easier to identify and isolate the ideas or emotions that we construct through our thinking, verbal minds. As we practice using our mental observation skills, it becomes easy to see just how our thinking works — or does not work — to help us manage the moods, emotions, and most importantly — actions that define our lives.

Once having learned these cognitive-observation skills, one client exclaimed: “It is easier for me to see how my negativity creeps in and poisons my experience ang appreciation of being alive. My cognitive therapy process . . . was kind of like . . . exposing to myself (sometimes disputing) the distortions that work poorly in the stories that perpetually flood my mind. Now I am more aware. I’m less tangled up, as my therapist says “fused” to my thinking. It is sort of like . . . I am no longer tangled up in my thoughts!”

Goal-Directed Behavior Regulation

Your first step as you begin this journey is a mood assessment made by the counselor. Not only is this the first step in a course of treatment, it is also the first step in each session. By constantly monitoring your mood in this way, both you and the counselor will able to gauge your progress and adjust your goals, if necessary. By keeping the agenda both flexible and foremost in the process, this type of therapy focuses on skill acquisition.

Reduction of Behavioral Avoidance

For many clients, cognitive behavioral therapy involves reducing avoidance of the cause of emotional and psychological distress. A pattern of avoidance only serves to reinforce any irrational fears the client may have and, often, exposure to the source of the fear helps to demonstrate that these fears are constructed by fear rather than based in reality. Over time and with practice, the client’s negative ideations will lose power over their emotions. In short, changing behavior is a matter of changing the client’s frame of mind and emotional frame of reference; by taking a logic approach to fears and anxieties, the client is able to understand them as irrational and counter-productive.

Realizing Valued Goals

The client and the counselor work as a team to address the client’s needs. The client has as much control over the process as the therapist does and, in fact, the first step of the process is for the client to decide what it is, exactly, that they want from their sessions. Generally a person wants to resolve a specific problem such as “I want to be able to manage my anxiety and panic attacks and get over my fear of flying,” or “My depression is ruining my marriage,” etc. While this is often the case, the initial goals do not have to be this specific. Part of the process is often working to isolate the exact nature of the problem is in the first place. How long this process takes depends upon the client’s individual needs and desires.

Learn Lasting Tools for Personal Change!

In short, cognitive behavioral therapy is geared towards dealing with the client’s response to emotional situations and teaching the client to react in rational, situationally-appropriate and functional ways. The goal is therefore to provide the client with a set of tools that he or she can carry at all times.

Patrick J. Hart Psy.D.
I offer you help for anger management, panic attack and anxiety disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction treatment, and the resolution of trauma and abuse.
206-547-HELP (4357)

Counseling & psychotherapy to sustain your mental health.
Coping skills to help you resolve moods, depression, and anxiety.

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