In a nutshell: We examine thoughts that are unhelpful or destructive to you, and you deliberately replace them with thoughts that better support the way you wish to feel and relate to others.
Our thinking affects how we feel.
We have habitual thoughts—mental ruts, if you like— about ourselves and our lives. These come from core beliefs about ourselves and the world.
We came up with them as children. Remember childhood? When everything was about us? When we were missing important bits of our brains, and had flawed reasoning? (It turns out it’s NOT the kids’ fault when parents do what they do. If only we’d had a prefrontal cortex back then…)
Needless to say, those beliefs and habitual thoughts are often off-target, and pretty harsh to boot. They can hurt our self-esteem and play a role in depression, anxiety, and problems relating to others.
Sometimes we’re not even aware we have them.
In CBT, you learn to become more aware of them. Catch them in the moment. Then you can interrupt the cycle of negative thoughts and feelings. And then, of course, behaviors (it’s what puts the B in CBT).
There’s solid research that CBT can be very effective for certain situations and lengths of time. And the field of neurobiology has helped us to understand why. Put simply, the way our brains are wired can, indeed, be changed throughout our lives. CBT can help do that by changing overly critical, negative thoughts and replacing them with realistic ones. Ones that leave room for you to make conscious choices for your wellbeing.