Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), commonly called talk therapy, is an effective way to manage the symptoms associated with chronic neck and back pain. While cognitive behavioral therapy is not an alternative to surgery and/or medication, it can be used to complement traditional treatment programs.
CBT is commonly used to treat mood disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, personality disorders, substance abuse and other mental health issues. CBT was developed by combining different elements of behavior therapy and cognitive therapy.
Understanding Talk Therapy
CBT is based on the theory that negative thinking can have an impact on an individual’s mental health and behavior. Therapists trained in CBT help patients break negative patterns and beliefs that have an adverse impact on their quality of life.
It’s important to understand how different thought processes can impact an individual’s behavior. Since it is challenging for an individual to think objectively about his or her personality, a therapist can be a valuable way for an individual to change errors in his or her thinking.
Common errors in thinking include overgeneralizing, minimizing positives, magnifying negatives and catastrophizing. With a cognitive behavioral therapist, a patient can learn how to overcome these types of negative thoughts patterns.
Cognitive behavioral therapy uses many different techniques to improve the lives of patients. These techniques can include stress inoculation training, exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, relaxation training and dialectical behavior acceptance.
CBT can be broken down into six different steps:
- Skills acquisition
- Skills consolidation and application training
- Generalization and maintenance
- Post-treatment assessment follow-up
A CBT-trained therapist will work with a patient to identify troubling conditions or situations in his or her life. This can include issues like chronic pain, medical conditions, grief, divorce, systemic anger and mental illness. After determining the issues a patient may be facing, a therapist will help a patient learn how to control the emotions associated with these issues. This can include changing an individual’s “self talk,” an individual’s interpretation of situations and an individual’s beliefs about himself or herself.
By identifying inaccurate or negative thinking, it’s possible for a patient to learn how to challenge these thought processes. By examining internal thought patterns, a patient can learn more about the validity of his or her thoughts and beliefs. In many cases, a patient may discover that his or her view of a situation is based on an inaccurate perception.
Choosing a Therapist
It’s important to choose a therapist that is certified in CBT techniques. In the United States, certification is offered by the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists. While CBT can be expensive, it’s may be covered by an individual’s insurance policy.
Most patients undergo at least 10 to 20 CBT sessions to treat a mental health-related issue. The number of sessions can vary based on how deeply rooted a set of inaccurate beliefs are in a patient’s personality.
While CBT is a powerful tool, it is not an alternative to surgery or medication. Talk with a doctor or healthcare provider before starting any treatment plan.