CBT Stages of Therapy

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy or psychotherapy that helps people change their negative thinking patterns. There are specific CBT stages of therapy that take place in order to help clients achieve a more positive way of thinking, which results in better mental health.

What CBT Can Treat 

Founded by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s, Beck determined that addressing a person’s distorted and negative thinking patterns helped patients alter them and make concrete, positive changes in their lives.

CBT was originally created to treat depression but also proves helpful in treating several other conditions, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders (addiction to drugs and alcohol)

As a person passes through the CBT stages of therapy, the patient ideally meets several goals. CBT helps a person to manage and reduce the symptoms of their illness, and learn how to cope with them when they occur. This type of therapy also teaches individuals to identify their emotions, improve communication with others, and resolve conflict in healthy ways. 

CBT can help people deal with loss and grief, as well as overcome trauma sustained from violence and abuse. What they learn in CBT contributes to being able to avoid a relapse related to drug and alcohol addiction. While many people using CBT also take prescription medications for their mental illness, it can also be quite effective with those for whom meds are not a viable option.

How Long Do the CBT Stages of Therapy Take?

One advantage of CBT has to do with the length of time needed to participate in it. While some talk therapy can consist of years of regular appointments, CBT is designed to be a short-term therapeutic treatment, typically lasting from about five to twenty sessions. Factors that contribute to how long it takes to complete the CBT stages of therapy include:

  • Which disorder the patient has
  • How long they’ve had the disorder
  • The severity of their symptoms
  • How quickly they progress during treatment
  • The support the patient receives from loved ones 

CBT can be combined with other types of therapy to offer a multi-prong approach for those receiving it. 


The CBT Stages of Therapy

CBT begins with an assessment by a licensed therapist who provides CBT treatment. 

Stage 1: Initial Assessment

The first meeting involves the therapist doing an intake of the patient. A history of the person’s life is usually taken. The therapist can identify negative thought patterns present in a patient, as well as physical and emotional reactions. The therapist combines that with their observations about how the person thinks, believes, and processes information, resulting in a customized plan for treatment. 

This stage helps identify situation-specific difficulties, residual issues from the past, and any mental health or addiction diagnoses. Decisions can be made on which problems to target and determining treatment goals.

Stage 2: Development of New Concepts 

The therapist helps the patient change how they view situations and learn how to replace any automatic negative thought patterns with positive ones. This stage helps cement the new concepts and make sure the patient understands them. Many patients keep a journal to record their issues and new ways to react to them.

Stage 3: Acquirement of New Skills

The new way of thinking and viewing things now begins to become action-oriented as the patient formulates healthy behavior patterns to deal with mental illness and addiction symptoms. They cross a bridge between understanding what their new concepts should be to how to achieve them. Many of their initial symptoms begin to lessen during this phase. 

Stage 4: Applying New Skills to Stressful Situations

As situations, emotions, and symptoms arise, the patient applies their newfound skills to each of them. As they move through this phase, they become more comfortable with the new approach, checking in with the therapist to evaluate each example of using their new approaches. The goal is to make their new reactions a pattern to begin using regularly.

Stage 5: Maintenance

At this point in the CBT stages of therapy, a person has become familiar and comfortable with how they now handle challenges in their lives. They practice their skills with confidence and without fear of automatically applying old thought patterns and behaviors. Patients then begin the process of wrapping up the CBT process with their therapist. 

Stage 6: Follow-up Treatment

While regular therapy appointments will come to an end, the therapist will continue to see their client for follow-up appointments. They give the person a chance to check in and make sure they are still practicing CBT skills. The time between follow-up appointments will grow, eventually ending in termination of treatment.

Addiction Treatment and Therapy in California

If you need help fighting an addiction to alcohol or drugs, Launch Centers provides a program that helps you gain control of your life. We treat addictions and mental health diagnoses in our Los Angeles facility. Our programs address overall wellness, educational goals, and parent coaching.

Launch Centers can help you or someone you love change your life. Contact us today to find out how to get started now.

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