CBT Therapy – How Does It Work?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a time-bound, structured and active psychological approach in treating a number of anxiety disorders. This article tackles cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This therapy is grounded on an empirically consistent association among symptoms, the treatment process, and a specified outcome. The emphasis of CBT is on the processes that are responsible for the undesirable manifestations of both behavioral and emotional symptoms. As applied to OCD, symptoms are envisioned as patterns of thought and behavior that do not exhibit normal adjustment and functioning of a person. Successful therapy weakens such maladaptive patterns by guiding patients in developing a new set of more effective skills.

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The success of any form of CBT therapy intervention is not a lone effort by the therapist, but rather, a collaborative effort between the therapist and the patient suffering from OCD. The mere inclusion of the term cognitive in the therapy name indicates that the treatment involves a mental process. Hence, this therapy somehow resembles coaching or education, where the therapist, acting as instructor walks his student, the patient, through a learning process to foster the development of new competencies. It is quite apparent at this point that CBT is not meant to be the change agent for the undesirable behavior observed among OCD patients CBT Web Scraper.

CBT therapy is considered one of the most successful and popular treatment options for OCD. The common elements of this therapy for OCD are exposure and ritual prevention, together called ERP, and often combined with imaginal exposure. The ERP intervention program is designed to weaken two types of habits. One of such habits consists of feelings of distress when the OCD patient is around specific objects or situations, or when the patients are bothered by distressful thoughts that are generally unfounded. Another habit that ERP is aimed at neutralizing is doing rituals. Ritualistic behavior is usually an aftermath of distressful thoughts.

Exposure, as a component of CBT Therapy for OCD involves staying around, near, or in the presence of a specific object or situation which a patient fears and which subsequently triggers anxiety or distressful feelings. This procedure is generally referred to as the patient’s actual contact with contaminants. This technique in this form of therapy entails confrontation with the stimuli that provokes the so-called obsessional fear in an objective manner that poses a very low risk of harm, if any. For example, a person obsessed with the fear of being dirty and washes hands repeatedly in short intervals of time is actually exposed to objects or situations of varying dirtiness.

Meanwhile, ritual prevention in CBT therapy deals with ritualistic behavior very commonly observed among OCD patients. For a person with OCD, rituals are mechanisms that help reduce distress about a specific anxiety stimulus. A person who abnormally fears dying in his sleep or fears that something will happen to him during sleep tend to ritualize getting ready for bed to have reassurance that he will be safe in his sleep. Imaginal exposure, the third component of this therapy is also called imagery practice. Someone who excessively fears the number 13 because of the bad luck associated with it may undergo imaginal exposure by being asked to write 13 as many times as necessary until the patient comes to terms with himself or herself that no bad luck actually occurs while writing the number.

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