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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?


Our San Francisco psychologists at Good Therapy SF are often asked by new clients “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” When searching for a psychologist in San Francisco people come across the term but do not understand why it is important for their treatment.

In short, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a scientifically supported therapy that focuses on thoughts and behaviors to help with mental health issues. It is a modern technique that focuses more on skill development and active questioning and less on awkward silences. Often, a combination of skills that focus on thoughts and behaviors provides the best results.

CBT is commonly used by our psychologists to help with stress, anxiety, and depression.


What is an example of a CBT approach to work with thoughts? 

For thoughts, clients are taught how to identify and productively challenge unhelpful thinking. 

For example, one skill that our San Francisco psychologist will teach is the “Name It to Tame It” technique. Clients are taught the different types of unhelpful thoughts most people have when they experience anxiety, stress, or depression. CBT refers to these unhelpful thoughts as cognitive distortions. The most common cognitive distortions are dichotomous thinking, catastrophizing, and future tripping. 

Why does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work? The ability to identify and categorize the type of unhelpful thought has been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of our unhelpful thoughts. 

Another skill a CBT psychologist might teach is a thought record. A thought record is a structured approach that teaches clients how to examine their thoughts using evidence. Once a client learns how to approach their thoughts with this skill, they will likely find it is applicable to many situations. At Good Therapy SF, we observe that thought records are most helpful for stress and depression. 


What is an example of a CBT approach to work with behaviors? 

For behaviors, clients are taught to identify problematic or avoidant actions that contribute to their issues. The new skills are then gradually applied to help overcome stress, anxiety, or depressive symptoms. 

One CBT behavioral skill that is common in all types of stress treatment is relaxation training. As part of this process, our San Francisco psychologists help clients identify the breathing behaviors that are contributing to their stress reactions. Clients are taught new breathing techniques in order to combat the stress they are experiencing in the moment.

Some of the new CBT breathing techniques include box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. With practice, clients are able to apply these new skills during everyday stressful situations in order to reduce the possibility of an anxiety attack.

Why does this work? When we are stressed or anxious, breathing will often change and become more shallow and rapid. Through a series of biological events, this can trigger the fight or flight response (making us feel anxious). Relaxation breathing techniques such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing help to keep the body in a rest and digest state, reducing the likelihood of an anxiety attack.


A Final Word

Our San Francisco psychologists at Good Therapy SF are well trained in treating anxiety, stress, and depression with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you think you might be suffering from some of these symptoms please feel free to reach out through our contact page.

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