Cognitive behavioral therapy can be seen as an amazing therapeutic tool for helping individuals who suffer from mental health disorders and addictions. As a result of its simple, easy and hands on nature (changing thoughts in the here and now), individuals and therapists alike boast of its tremendous benefits.
In this article, I will examine both the benefits and criticisms of using cognitive behavioral therapy.
The therapy itself can be used in individual sessions as well as support groups. Some people do better when they attend support groups that are CBT based as they meet with others with similar disorders and concerns who validate them.
One of the greatest advantages of CBT is that it is skill-focused, structured and practical.
This means that clients get specific education and practical coping skills on how to cope with their long-term problems – anxiety, depression, irrational thinking, addictions, etc.
CBT is very psycho-educational in nature so clients get educated as they heal!
A second advantage is that when CBT is used in groups, clients may learn how to work in a team and may see the effectiveness of collaborative, cohesive group work. These specific skills can help them overcome their addiction problems, negative thinking patterns while leading to help influence their social lives.
For those socially inept, they learn how to socialize acceptably which helps build self-esteem.
The third advantage with CBT is that it is very effective in working with people who have concurrent disorders. It is an amazing treatment for people who have mental health disorders and addictions problems (concurrent disorders/dual disorders). CBT helps people who have anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress syndromes while at the same time, treating dependencies and addictions, such as drug or alcohol addiction which individuals use to cope.
The final advantage of CBT is the lack of spiritual emphasis which some counseling-based treatments use, especially in treatment groups that are spiritual or 12 step based.
When used effectively, CBT emphasizes self-efficacy, personal autonomy and skills. Some individuals want “science-based” behavioral strategies that are proven and CBT is the closest type of treatment approach that assures clients that what they are getting is reliable and valid.
There are also disadvantages to CBT.
Perhaps the greatest disadvantage is the homework assignments assigned to clients to complete away from sessions. Homework assignments are usually tasks that clients need to practice and complete on their own outside of the sessions.
Some clients do not possess the organizational or discipline skills to complete the homework tasks on their own. Some are simply not motivated or view the assignments as nothing more than added burdens which they choose not to complete which undermines success in therapy. Also there are literacy issues when clients are from different ethnic backgrounds, or have limited reading and writing skills.
When you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of CBT, you can see that the advantages definitely tilt the scales in CBT’s favor! The greatest benefit is that you do not have to rehash the past and relive painful feelings, rather clients can be trained to think in the moment and change their thought patterns right there and then.
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