Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely researched and used therapies today. According to CBT, many of the troubles in our lives, especially when we are anxious or depressed, are caused by unhelpful thinking habits. When someone is depressed, they are more likely to view the world through a negative “lens” instead of a realistic one. They may come to view the world, the future, and themselves in ways that are not aligned with a more realistic and balanced stance. CBT is used to help people readjust their thinking patterns to match what is actually going on around them. In this way, patients are taught to live their lives as objective scientists, rather than fall prey to the whims of their emotions.
In CBT, a therapist might help a patient first identify and label common unhelpful or unrealistic thoughts the person may be having on a regular basis. For instance, if a patient were to discover that their friend attended a social event without them, they might have a thought pop up in their mind of, “My friend must not like me, I must be a lousy person to be around.” In CBT, a therapist may help the patient consider alternatives, such that their friend may not have been allowed to invite other guests, or that many people can still consider them a great friend even if one person doesn’t like them. Challenging negative and unhelpful patterns in thinking allows people to recognize their worth, believe that the world around them has opportunities for joy, and be hopeful about the future. Over time, as patients learn to be more fair-minded about the everyday concerns around them, they can also become more objective and compassionate toward themselves on a deeper level.