Why does CBT have homework?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is an evidence-based therapy that helps people identify and change patterns of negative thinking and behavior. The core principles of CBT are to challenge and reframe negative thoughts to more constructive and positive beliefs. CBT is proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of behavioral health disorders, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. It’s also effective for people who suffer from chronic pain.
Emotional distress often leads to negative beliefs and thinking, which leads to behaviors that reinforce the negative beliefs. For example, a person who is feeling depressed may stop doing things they used to enjoy, avoid friends and family, and abuse alcohol or other drugs to cope with difficult emotions. It’s a vicious cycle that can make mental health and physical symptoms worse.
CBT helps people recognize and replace these negative thoughts and beliefs. For example, a person experiencing anxiety or depression can learn through CBT to substitute negative thoughts and beliefs for more realistic ones. Fear, anger, and hopelessness triggered by negative beliefs are replaced with more positive beliefs and behavior. This is why CBT often involves reading and homework, so individuals can further educate themselves, recognize and modify their inaccurate and dysfunctional thoughts, and practice new behaviors between sessions. People are better able to cope with life’s challenges and setbacks when their mood and outlook is positive.
There are many different types of CBT homework. For instance, a CBT therapist may recommend breathing or other mindfulness exercises for a client to practice whenever they feel stressed or anxious. Writing in a journal about negative thoughts and ways to challenge these thoughts, and reading articles or books can also reinforce the skills taught by the CBT therapist. Research suggests that clients who do CBT homework have better treatment outcomes.
Many people report improvement with CBT after 4 – 8 sessions, although others need treatment for several months. CBT is offered in private and group psychotherapy practices, as well as in hospitals and clinics.