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What Are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Interventions?

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  • Written By: Megan Shoop
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2014
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Cognitive behavioral therapy interventions typically involve intervening on the behalf of a person who is involved in a destructive behavioral pattern. Generally, a therapist helps the patient reformat his or her thought processes and behaviors to construct a less destructive life pattern. This involves providing the patient with coping mechanisms, changing the patient’s perception of the world, and helping him or her form new, healthy relationships. Most cognitive behavioral therapy interventions start with a careful explanation of how the patient’s behavior is hurting him or her. The therapist and patient may then work together to help the patient change, but the patient must want to change the pattern or this therapy will not work.

Often the first step in most cognitive behavioral therapy interventions is the intervention itself. This usually involves the patient’s loved ones, along with a therapist, approaching the patient in a neutral environment. The friends and family members carefully explain to the patient why they think certain behaviors are destructive or harmful. This must be done a certain way because cognitive behavioral therapy interventions should not be confrontational. Explanations should be done using 'I statements' to help keep the patient from feeling threatened. For instance, a friend might say, “I feel your dependence on alcohol keeps you from interacting with others in a healthy way.”

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When the patient is willing to accept help, the therapist generally steps in. This is the second part of most cognitive behavioral therapy interventions. The therapist is now intervening on the way the patient thinks and acts, hence the used of cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on how thoughts affect behaviors and vice versa. The theory is that certain events cause the patient to perceive the world in a specific way, enacting resulting behaviors. The behaviors usually also feed the thought processes, which generate the behaviors, and so on in a self-perpetuating cycle.

The therapist’s job is to end the above cycle. He or she usually begins by asking the patient a number of questions. For instance, in this case, the first few questions might ask “Why do you drink?” or “When did you start drinking?” When the therapist discovers why this patient uses alcohol as a crutch, he or she can begin asking questions that lead the patient to think differently.

In the above scenario, if the patient is a man who drinks to help him forget childhood abuse, he might view the world as a violent and unwelcoming place. Alcohol may help him cut himself off from those feelings. The therapist might ask him questions about his friends and his job, and then help him understand that the alcohol distances him from the good things in his life. When the patient is able to change his thought processes, behaviors are likely to follow.

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