Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been around in Poland for a relatively short time, but ever since it’s introduction, it has been quickly gaining the trust of patients. Participants of CBT sessions appreciate the simplicity of the principles of this method, its clarity, and above all its effectiveness. What is CBT? How does cognitive behavioral therapy help people who have turned to a psychotherapist? In what cases does it bring the greatest change?
The roots of the method can be traced back to the beginning of the last century. Behavioral therapy was treated as an alternative to psychoanalysis with the goal of supporting people with mental disorders. As a form of treatment for anxiety disorders, behavioral therapy worked well, but it did not benefit patients with depressive conditions. This gap was filled by cognitive therapy, developed in the 1960s. Its prototype was based on scientific discoveries of earlier psychotherapists, but it was the comprehensive technique developed by American psychiatrist Aaron Beck that was considered revolutionary.
Subsequent studies confirmed the effectiveness of cognitive therapy in treating depression. With time, specialists concluded that in order to achieve the best possible results, it is worth combining it with behavioral therapy. Thus, in the 80s and 90s, two methods with many common features, such as goal orientation, were combined into the approach known today as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Today, CBT is one of the fastest growing forms of psychotherapy. From the post-war era to the present day, CBT has expanded to include new treatment techniques. The most important features of cognitive behavioral therapy include the ease of adaptation to the specific problem with which the patient comes to the specialist. For example, a psychotherapist approaches a person with depressive conditions using a different set of techniques than he does a person who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He treats a patient with a phobia differently, an adult differently, and a child differently. Behavioral-cognitive psychotherapy is a model of therapy that can be called tailor-made. Each time a new patient sets foot in the office, the therapist comes prepared with a range of tools at his disposal to best meet that patient’s needs.
What distinguishes cognitive behavioral therapy from other forms of psychological help is the aforementioned goal orientation. While a number of “competitive” techniques focus on creating an intimate relationship between patient and psychotherapist, CBT additionally focuses on educating the patient about her the interaction of her thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. CBT requires clients to perform tasks and to learn helpful responses to scenarios in which individuals find themselves in. In other words, the patient is engaged in the therapeutic process. The therapist leads the conversation in a structured manner to help the client understand and solve her problems in a novel way.
In addition to the concretization of aspirations, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy differs from other approaches in its duration. In many cases, the patient knows from the beginning how many meetings the therapist will devote to her. Patients will usually participate in short-term therapy, unlike those who attend sessions in, for example, psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy.
Another important difference is the focus on the present without dwelling too much on or analyzing the past. Cognitive behavioral therapy assumes that no matter how long a person has been engaged in maladaptive behavioral patterns, he or she can always change. What is required is that the client become aware of his or her cognitive and behavioral responses to situations and commits to changing them accordingly. This allows for effective change without necessarily having to dig deep in a patient’s past experiences.
A characteristic feature of cognitive behavioral therapy is the focus on human behavior. During meetings with the patient the specialist examines her emotions and thoughts, but not in the context of subconscious or unconscious feelings that have their source in the traumatic past. The object of analysis is what can be seen, and not what in other approaches (especially in psychodynamic psychotherapy) comes from memory.
A qualified cognitive behavioral psychotherapist understands the importance of a person’s past on their current behavior and thought patterns, though he also understands that it is not necessary for the patient to relive these experiences in order to change their patterns. What matters is the interpretation of these patterns, the role assigned to them, and the meaning that a person gives them. Our way of perceiving and understanding the surrounding reality changes over the years, often taking on distorted forms. People who come to the therapist’s office have developed interpretations that often cause suffering. This skewed evaluation negatively affects the patient’s life. As a result, the person is stuck in a cage of his own fears and pain. He struggles with memories, repeatedly returning to traumatic situations, which causes further anguish. The task of a cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist is to inhibit this process.
A specialist who begins to treat a patient according to CBT guidelines plans the entire therapy process step by step. This allows him to adequately treat each type of mental disorder. This is also one of the reasons why cognitive behavioral therapy works so well in treating various types of phobias (e.g., anxiety disorders, agoraphobia, or social phobia). It also shows great effectiveness in patients with recurrent panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder. CBT additionally provides support for pharmacotherapy in people with depression and mood disorders.
A person who abuses or is addicted to psychoactive substances will also find help in the office of a psychotherapist who uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. In addition, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy works well for eating and sexual disorders. It can be effective as individual, group or couples therapy. Research is still being done on the effectiveness of CBT for more advanced psychiatric conditions such as psychotic disorders (e.g., schizophrenia) or personality disorders.
In order to be able to help patients via CBT, a specialist must be a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and must also be licensed to conduct psychotherapy. After obtaining a university diploma, a candidate for a cognitive behavioral therapist should undergo the appropriate training in an approved center recommended by the Polish Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (PTTPB). The PTTPB is based in Warsaw. Accredited training lasts four years and ends with obtaining a certificate (license) from PTTPB.
A professional who offers patients support in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy has broad knowledge of the diagnosis and therapeutic methods specific to a mental disorder. He is also aware of the issues in the field of psychopathology.
More and more representatives of the medical community are interested in CBT. This is easy to understand, seeing the potential that cognitive behavioral psychotherapy has. The method brings relief to people suffering from anxiety, depression, phobias and lowered mood. It can be successfully applied to people with adjustment problems. Consultation and treatment are offered by numerous offices in most cities – not only big ones like Warsaw, but also in smaller towns.
There are many qualified psychotherapists in the capital, including CBT specialists. My office is located in Warsaw’s Mokotów district. As a native speaker I provide patients with consultations in Polish and English. My practice offers cognitive behavioral therapy, in which I restore inner balance to people with mood disorders, low self-esteem and anxiety disorders.
While I am based in Warsaw, I offer support to individuals from all over the world. They appreciate the transparency of the therapeutic relationship, the high level of empathy and the respect that I give as a qualified cognitive behavioral psychotherapist.
New clients will find my office in a modern building located near the center of the capital. This place is well connected to the rest of the city, which provides quick and easy access from any point of Warsaw and the surrounding area. In addition, I also provide psychological consultations online.