How Does CBT Benefit The Brain?

Studies show that CBT can change the structure and function of the brain and can help improve individuals’ mental and emotional wellbeing. Here's how.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related. Through CBT, people learn how to reframe harmful feelings and negative thoughts, which helps improve their behavior. Research reveals that CBT can also help benefit the brain. According to the study, individuals who participate in CBT have increased activity in areas of the brain that promote emotional regulation and cognitive control.

The History Of CBT Therapy

Even though cognitive behavioral therapy began in the 1960s as a treatment for schizophrenia, this form of therapy became a popular treatment for depression in the 1980s. A decade later, CBT doctors started using CBT to treat anxiety disorders. Today, CBT is considered an effective treatment for various mental health conditions, including:

  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Understanding More About CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an approach to therapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts and behaviors. Even though CBT relies on several core principles, the main two include the belief that:

  • Psychological problems occur as a result of unhelpful thoughts
  • People dealing with psychological challenges can learn coping skills that can help relieve their symptoms and improve their mood and overall well being

In other words, the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that trigger or contribute to psychological challenges can be unlearned. Thanks to CBT, individuals with mental health challenges can learn to be capable members of society without taking medication.

Benefits Of CBT

CBT aims to help individuals identify and change thoughts and behaviors causing them distress. Even though CBT is a short-term treatment that lasts for 12-20 weeks, the benefits of this type of therapy can be long-lasting.

Some of the most common benefits of CBT include:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Rational thinking
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Improved communication skills
  • Healthy coping skills
  • Relapse prevention
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression

Some of the most significant benefits of CBT are related to the brain.

How CBT Therapy Benefits The Brain

Studies show that CBT can change the structure and function of the brain and can help improve individuals’ mental and emotional wellbeing. Some of the specific ways CBT benefits the brain include:

1. Increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex

Every organ and cell in the body relies on a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood to function correctly. Increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex can improve cognitive function and foster a greater sense of calm and focus. Increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex can also lead to increased creativity and decreased stress levels. Research shows that after just eight weeks of treatment, individuals in CBT had a thicker prefrontal cortex associated with rational decision-making and high-level planning.

People with a healthy prefrontal cortex are able to set goals and achieve them. They are able to control their emotions, stay organized, and make good decisions. A healthy prefrontal cortex has also been linked to better physical health. People with a healthy prefrontal cortex are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. They are also more likely to live longer and have a higher quality of life.

2. Decreased activity in the amygdala

The amygdala, which is responsible for fear and stress responses, shrinks in size after CBT treatment. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotions like fear and anxiety. When it is hyperactive, we tend to feel more stressed and anxious and may even experience panic attacks. However, when the amygdala is less active, we may feel more relaxed and at ease. People who can keep their amygdala activity in check can better manage stress and remain calm under pressure. As a result, CBT can help improve memory, learning, and executive functioning while reducing fear and anxiety. Decreasing activity in the amygdala can have several positive effects on your overall well-being.

3. Increased gray matter in the hippocampus

Researchers have found that CBT can increase gray matter in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for memory and learning. People with more gray matter in the hippocampus were better able to cope with stressful situations. Studies also show that people with more gray matter in the hippocampus are better able to regulate their emotions and are less likely to feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

People with a healthy hippocampus tend to perform better on memory tests and enjoy better mental clarity. In addition, the hippocampus is also critical for spatial navigation, so keeping this area of the brain healthy can help individuals find their way around new places more easily.

4. Strengthened logical brain

Negative thinking can be a powerful force. Thoughts can spiral out of control, leading us to believe things that are not true. CBT focuses on changing the way we think about ourselves and the world around us. By challenging our negative beliefs and learning new ways of thinking, CBT can help us to feel better about ourselves and our lives. CBT also strengthens the logical brain, the part of the brain responsible for critical thinking and rational decision-making. CBT strengthens the logical brain by teaching people how to identify and challenge negative thoughts. As a result, people who undergo CBT can develop more healthy and productive ways of thinking.

Logical thinking is a powerful tool that can help people solve problems, make decisions, and achieve their goals. When individuals engage in logical thinking, they use reason and evidence to reach a conclusion. This type of thinking is grounded in facts and objective reality, rather than emotions or personal beliefs. As a result, it can be an extremely effective way to navigate the complex world around us.

Give Cognitive Behavioral Therapy A Try

If you’re struggling with negative thoughts and harmful feelings, cognitive behavioral therapy may be the solution for you. This research provides evidence that this type of therapy can help improve brain function as well as behavior. So if you’re ready to make a change, contact us to get started. Our team of experts is ready and willing to work with you one-on-one to help you reframe your thoughts and emotions so that you can start living the life you want.

Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies

Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.

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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
This low-impact magnetic stimulation activates neurons inside the brain, relieving symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

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qEEG/Brain Mapping
Using brain scanning and readings, we create a map of our patients' brains, helping us develop more targeted and effective treatments.

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Neurofeedback
This process assists patients in visualizing their own brain functionality through continuous EEG readings.

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Spravato Therapy
We use carefully monitored doses of Spravato to help patients struggling with complex mental health disorders, including severe depression.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Patients use this practice to help reframe intrusive or negative thought patterns and develop coping techniques for long-term recovery.

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This practice helps patients learn to regulate emotions, communicate more effectively, and process their own thoughts and feelings..

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Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR)
Licensed and trained therapists guide patients through this technique for managing stress and anxiety on an ongoing basis.

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Individual Therapy
Patients experience one-on-one therapy sessions with a licensed therapist to provide a safe and private place to recover and heal.

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Group/Family Therapy
Patients can practice the skills and techniques they have learned in treatment with others in a safe, therapist-guided space. .
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