When choosing a mode of therapy, you probably would like to improve your (or your child’s) functioning as quickly as possible. Scientists have tested what therapy works for each mental health disorder so we know what works best, and we know that not all therapies were created equal also known as the Dodo Bird Effect.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the MOST effective treatment for a number of disorders including depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD (Hoffman et al., 2012; Higa-McMillan, Francis, Rith-Najaran, & Chorpita, 2016). When working with a CBT therapist, he/she will teach you about the connection between your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. You will gain awareness between the interconnectedness between these components and then learn how to challenge negative beliefs, act differently, and improve your emotions and overall well-being.
You may be wondering, “If CBT has been proven to be the most effective treatment for most diagnoses, then why do therapists use other therapies, such as psychoanalytic therapy?”. Well, that is a great question. For one, Psychoanalytical therapy will not focus on providing you tools to help with your daily life. When Freud was providing this type of therapy, most people had to have the time and money to sit (or lay down) in a room for 2 hours a day, 2 times a week, for many years on end. CBT is a short-term focused therapy to help tackle the problems by focusing on the present moment. Also, your therapist will present you with exposures or behavioral experiments. For example, if you have Social Anxiety Disorder, then part of treatment will focus on setting up exposure to attend a social gathering or leave the building with your therapist. When I was leading a group for teens with Social Anxiety, I had two teens greet NYers as they came off the subway. And as you know, NYers can be very angry and in a rush- and they were, but these teens’ anxiety decreased because they learned that it is okay to have someone not like you and it is okay if someone looks at you in a funny way but you can learn how to tolerate that stress.
This is also important to note- Not all CBT therapists were created equal, either! Some therapists know that CBT is the treatment to use so they self-label as CBT when in reality, they are using CBT techniques but not the treatment as it was intended. When searching for a therapist for you or your child, it’s important to ask them questions, such as “How long can I expect treatment to last for this problem” “What techniques do you use” “What is your theoretical orientation”.
Higa-McMillan, C.K., Francis, S.E., Rith-Najarian, L., & Chorpita, B.F. (2016) Evidence base update: 50 years of research on treatment for child and adolescent anxiety, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 45 (2), 91-113, DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2015.1046177
Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36(5), 427-440.