With your therapist, you break each problem down into its separate parts. To aid in this process, your therapist may ask you to keep a diary. This will help you to identify your individual patterns of thoughts, emotions, bodily feelings and actions.
Together you will look at your thoughts, feelings and behaviour to work out:
- If they are unrealistic or unhelpful.
- How they affect each other, and you.
The therapist will then help you to work out how to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. It’s easy to talk about doing something, and much harder to actually do it. So, after you have identified what you can change, your therapist will recommend that you perform certain “homework” exercises between sessions so that you can practice these changes in your everyday life.
Depending on the situation, you might start to:
- Question a self-critical or upsetting thought and replace it with a positive (and more realistic) one that you have developed in CBT.
- Recognize that you are about to do something that will make you feel worse and, instead, do something more helpful.
Homework completion between sessions is a powerful predictor of therapy success.
At each meeting you and your therapist will discuss how you’ve been since the previous session. Your therapist will provide suggestions if any of the tasks seem too hard or don’t seem to be helping. Your therapist will never ask you to do things you don’t want to do. You decide the pace of your treatment and what you will and won’t try. The strength of CBT is that you can continue to practice and develop your skills even after the sessions have finished. This makes it less likely that your symptoms or problems will return.