Cognitive therapy can be explained in this way: While conventional psychotherapy entails discussing issues from the past that may have led up to the myriad of problems a person is currently dealing with, cognitive therapy focuses on the here and now.
Cognitive therapy allows for specific methods of identifying why a person is thinking a specific way or reacting to others differently, and uses techniques that can change one’s behavior.
This type of therapy also allows for individuals to focus on what it is that is causing them so much distress and to identify and evaluate, in a realistic way, how they can change the way they think in order to lead a better life. Changing behavior and problem-solving are two of the characteristics of cognitive therapy.
While conventional psychotherapy involves a long and sometimes tedious discussion about one’s past and how it led to a specific disorder, cognitive therapy affords the individual the opportunity to reflect and improve on his or her own present goals, while seeking to improve those skills that need improvement, as well as those that can be tweaked to obtain maximum balance within.
Many psychologists may operate in a similar fashion. Whether you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, their concern is what is going on now – that is, what event or circumstance brought you to the current angst you are feeling at this moment. From there, you may be asked what areas in your life you wish to improve upon, and to document each session so that a time-line of events can be discussed each week to determine what areas of improvement can be changed or altered.
More importantly, cognitive therapy involves you and the therapist working together to resolve issues. It is not a one-sided exchange wherein you talk your heart out and the therapist just listens and takes notes.
Most therapy sessions with a psychiatrist can last several months or years (depending upon the root cause). However, cognitive therapy is specifically designed so that each individual may only need to see a therapist for a shorter period of time because the goals are set for that individual at the outset. How well the individual has met those goals determines the duration of the sessions.
The key to successful cognitive therapy sessions lies within the individual. He or she, after being given a set of goals and utilizing the tools to obtain those goals on a daily basis, finds the symptoms begin to dissipate and begins to feel quite confident that they can deal with any given situation.