What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how does it work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a very common type of psychotherapy that’s aimed at drawing your attention to your negative and often inaccurate thought patterns, and then helping you correct those negative thoughts and patterns. This intervention typically involves talking with a psychologist or therapist about your thought patterns, the therapist pointing out where your cognitions skip steps, and then providing you with strategies and practice worksheets to make you better at thinking, essentially. 

Humans are pretty bad at being rational, the multitude of ‘if, then’ statements that race through our minds on a daily basis are often flawed and inaccurate. CBT teaches you to build evidence before you give credence to a thought that you have. If something happens, or someone says something, does it really mean this other thing that we’re thinking? Maybe not. In fact, probably not. In a way, it helps you become more logical. 

negative thoughts cbt

The problem with CBT counselling

That all actually sounds pretty great, and it is; so then what’s the issue? The issue is that CBT focuses on your cognitive, or thinking brain. But that’s not all there is that needs attention. Our more primal, emotional brains (or, the walnut, as we lovingly call it here), need attention too (a lot of it). Your walnut brain is the thing that regulates your emotional responses to things, the thing that is meant to get you out of threatening situations. If you want to get a bit anatomical, it’s your limbic system, including structures like the amygdala and hippocampus.

Now, way back when, the walnut got us out of some pretty dangerous situations, but things have changed. We now face far fewer threats than we used to, but our walnut still perceives things as threats, when they may not actually be. This results in us reacting to things in potentially maladaptive ways. It’s the reason why we say things we don’t mean, why we make bad decisions, and why we convince ourselves that we suck.

In other words, those broken cognitions we talked about earlier are broken because of the emotionality behind them. Our brains don’t just skip a step and come to false conclusions for no reason; it’s really the walnut trying to protect you. It just means we have to unlearn some of our maladaptive behaviors, but understanding our walnut a bit better. 

What we do instead

At Shift, we recognize the many benefits of CBT and use aspects of it in our therapy. We also use concepts from other evidence-based interventions such as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and exposure therapy. We essentially mixed these all together, and threw in some of our own innovations (including giving attention to the walnut) to create a protocol that gets to the root of many mental health concerns including: 

We also operate in the realm of life optimization, and love to help people build their ideal realities. We all have everyday struggles and could benefit from some therapy to help with:

We’re really excited about what we do here – and we’re really good at it!