Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

possibleWhat motivates your behavior? What causes you to act the way you do? Habits that have been learned or practiced since childhood may cause you to react to other people or situations in certain ways. You may overeat because of certain stimuli. You may feel good or bad about yourself as the result of old patterns.

Dr. Dean Kirschner will help you understand what motivates your behavior and help you take steps towards reacting differently. You will recognize the triggers that stimulate your actions. You will discover how and why you learned the responses you did. Using therapeutic techniques geared toward positive change, you will take charge and be in control over your own behavior. Even if you cannot find the reason why, you can still learn new behavior patterns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of treatment that attempts to change negative behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. The process of systematically altering how you act or react is called Behavior Modification. At the Life Mastery Center, Dr. Kirschner uses behavior modification, which falls under the umbrella of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to help change your undesirable behaviors. It is a highly developed process that allows you to make changes in your behavior and your life. Dr. Kirschner has used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help individuals throughout Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, including Baltimore and Baltimore County, since our founding in 1987.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

There are many approaches to psychotherapy and positive changes. One is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This process has the fundamental understanding that problems in one’s life stem from thinking errors or cognitive distortions. By challenging these Thinking Errors, a client learns a different mental process that leads to differences in thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Aaron Beck identified this list of Thinking Errors:

  • All-or-nothing thinking (also called black and white, polarized, or dichotomous thinking): You view a situation in only two categories instead of on a continuum.

Example: “If I’m not a total success, I’m a failure.”

  • Catastrophizing (also called fortune telling): You predict the future negatively without considering other, more likely outcomes.

Example: “I’m so upset; I won’t be able to function at all.”

  • Disqualifying or discounting the positive: You unreasonably tell yourself that positive experiences, deeds, or qualities do not count.

Example: “I did the project well, but that doesn’t mean I’m competent; I just got lucky.”

  • Emotional reasoning: You think something must be true because you “feel” (actually believe) it so strongly, ignoring or discounting evidence to the contrary.

Example: “I know I do a lot of things okay at work, but I still feel like I’m a failure.”

  • Labeling: You put a fixed, global label on yourself or others without considering that the evidence might more reasonably lead to a less disastrous conclusion.

Example: “I’m a loser. He’s no good.”

  • Magnification / minimization: When you evaluate yourself, another person, or a situation, you unreasonably magnify the negative and/or minimize the positive.

Example: “Getting a mediocre evaluation proves how inadequate I am. Getting high marks doesn’t mean I’m smart.”

  • Mental filter (also called selective abstraction): You pay undue attention to one negative detail instead of seeing the whole picture.

Example: Because I got one low rating on my evaluation [which also contained several high ratings] it means I’m doing a lousy job.”

  • Mind reading: You believe you know what others are thinking, failing to consider other, more likely possibilities.

Example: “He’s thinking that I don’t know the first thing about this project.”

  • Overgeneralization: You make a sweeping negative conclusion that goes far beyond the current situation.

Example: “[Because I felt uncomfortable at the meeting] I don’t have what it takes to make friends.”

  • Personalization: You believe others are behaving negatively because of you, without considering more plausible explanations for their behavior.

Example: “The repairman was curt to me because I did something wrong.”

  • “Should” and “must” statements (also called imperatives): You have a precise, fixed idea of how you or others should behave and you overestimate how bad it is that these expectations are not met.

Example: “It’s terrible that I made a mistake. I should always do my best.”

  • Tunnel Vision: You only see the negative aspects of a situation.

Example: “My son’s teacher can’t do anything right. He’s critical and insensitive and lousy at teaching.”

What is Behavior Modification?

Dr. Kirschner starts with an understanding that all behavior is motivated, either by the desire to get something or to avoid something. Behavior modification is the practice of changing behavior through reinforcement in the form of rewards and punishment – to either get something or avoid something.

Reinforcement can take one of four forms: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. Reinforcement is used to increase a behavior and punishment is used to decrease a behavior.

  • Positive reinforcement is adding something, such as praise or rewards, to increase a behavior. Positive reinforcement is shown to be the most powerful of the four in terms of behavior change.
  • Negative reinforcement is taking away something negative in order to increase a behavior. A classic example is the loud buzzing some cars make until the driver buckles their seatbelt. When the desired behavior occurs, the negative (buzzing) is taken away.
  • Positive punishment is adding something aversive to decrease a behavior, such as receiving a speeding ticket. This type of reinforcement is shown to be the least effective, and teaches aggression.
  • Negative punishment is removing something desirable to decrease a behavior. An example would be a when one spouse starts ignoring the other in response to a behavior.

What Can CBT and Behavior Modification Be Used to Treat?

Behavior modification has been used to treat a number of issues, including:

Ready to make a change? Contact the Life Master Center today for more information about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and behavior modification.

 

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