What is cognitive behavioral treatment?

Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) focuses on the individual’s current symptoms and is based on the premise that patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions contribute to the development and maintenance of anxiety and mood conditions. Treatment relies on an increased awareness of these patterns and a willingness to develop new ways of behaving and thinking in response to symptoms and triggers. Through this action-oriented process, the individual achieves a corrective learning experience, increases tolerance of anxiety, overcomes excessive fears, and gains confidence to help them live unhindered by anxiety.

A thorough assessment is conducted as a first step to inform diagnostic impressions, treatment needs and recommendations. An individualized treatment plan is then developed to target the unique presentation of symptoms and challenges identified through the assessment. The length and format of CBT treatment varies for each individual but is considered a relatively short-term treatment approach (i.e., 3 to 6 months). The frequency of sessions is increasingly tapered as symptoms improve to monitor continued gains and foster relapse prevention.

To maximize consistency and effectiveness, a collaborative approach is used, including active coordination of care with other current providers and the inclusion of the individual’s support system as indicated (e.g., parents of children, spouses).

If the assessment indicates that the presenting problems warrant treatment outside of the scope of Dr. Jacobsen’s practice, appropriate referrals will be provided.

Under the broader umbrella term of CBT are a number of specific treatment approaches that Dr. Jacobsen incorporates in treatment as indicated, including Exposure/Response Prevention, Habit Reversal Training, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Acceptance-based Behavior Therapy, and Behavioral Activation.

Exposure/Response Prevention (ERP)

ERP is a necessary component of CBT for most anxiety conditions and for Obsessive Compulsive and related disorders. The two components include exposures – facing fears in a systematic, gradual, and purposeful manner to elicit anxiety – and response (or ritual) prevention – actively resisting safety behaviors and other avoidant strategies that only offer short-term reduction of symptoms but maintain the cycle of anxiety and avoidance in the long-term. Both elements are critical for effective ERP. Through the ERP process, the individual overcomes fears, gains corrective information, and retrains the brain to change how it relates to the fight or flight reaction in the face of these “false alarms.”

For more information, http://iocdf.org/about-ocd/treatment/erp/.

Habit Reversal Training (HRT)

HRT is a core component of CBT for tic disorders, such as Tourette’s Disorder, and body-focused repetitive behavior disorders, such as Trichotillomania (hair pulling). It involves awareness training, development of competing responses to replace the problematic behavior, and promoting and maintaining motivation and compliance to consistently use the competing responses. In addition, having helpful family/social support can be an important asset in treatment, with the goal to train support people to encourage the patient’s treatment implementation in concrete ways.

For more information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3812724/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbrUzRtRGTk.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a form of psychotherapy that incorporates mindfulness skills to develop psychological flexibility, clarify the individual’s values, and take effective “act”ions guided by those values for the purposes of creating a rich and meaningful life. Mindfulness skills are taught to foster management of thoughts and feelings in ways that strengthen psychological flexibility, lower their degree of power and influence over one’s life, and enhance one’s ability to live in the present moment.

For more information, https://contextualscience.org/act_for_the_public.

Behavioral Activation (BA)

BA is an evidence-based approach for depression. It is based on early behavioral social learning theories (e.g., Lewinsohn, 1974) suggesting that depression is associated with low levels of positive reinforcement and high levels of aversive control, including withdrawal and avoidance behaviors. Over time, this avoidance exacerbates depressed mood, as individuals lose opportunities to be positively reinforced through experiences, social activity, or a sense of mastery. BA focuses on increasing the frequency and quality of pleasant activities, increasing one’s sense of mastery, decreasing aversive consequences, and improving mood. Specific techniques include activity scheduling, monitoring of pleasant and mastery activities, and gradual steps to increase enriching social engagement and contact with sources of reward.

For more information, https://www.div12.org/treatment/behavioral-activation-for-depression/.

Dr. Jacobsen has been an amazing help and resource for our family. Our son had anxiety associated with bedtime and had a negative self-image as a result. Dr. Jacobsen presented ways to help him in a very easy to follow, sequential process that both he and my husband and I understood. Our son was able to face his fears and take on the challenges we presented him with. His confidence is now soaring as he is proud of all he has been able to accomplish. My husband and I feel like we have a new son, who is happy and much less anxious. The work we have done with Dr. Jacobsen made a huge impact on our family structure and we feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her.
— Parent of a Child Patient