5 Tips for Getting Started With CBT in DC

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions. As a form of psychotherapy, CBT can help you regulate your mood, overcome negative thoughts, and change problematic behaviors. Although CBT is usually short-term, CBT focuses on helping clients become their own therapist and develop healthy coping mechanisms to use in daily life.

Whether you’re starting CBT for the first time or searching for a new psychologist, taking the time to prepare for your first session can help you make the most out of your treatment. Here’s how to get started with CBT in DC, and one of many forms of talk therapy.  


1. Write down your mental health goals.

Before your first session, think about the specific problems you’d like to work on during CBT. While you can set treatment goals with your CBT therapist, writing down your mental health goals and current problems can help provide a valuable starting point for your first appointment.

Setting clear mental health goals might be more challenging than it sounds. After all, we’re used to viewing our problems subjectively and sometimes vaguely—for example, you might feel a general sense of loneliness, or say “I feel dissatisfied.” On the other hand, you might be seeking treatment for an anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental illness. Either way, it’s important to identify how your symptoms are affecting your quality of life.

Writing down your current problems and navigating these issues during cognitive-behavior therapy can help you gain insight and form a more objective view. Then, you can define your problems and start working toward real, tangible change.

2. Consider your preferences and requirements.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is usually used as an umbrella term to describe different talk therapy approaches that incorporate elements of cognitive therapy and behavior therapy. Various forms of CBT emphasize the present, focus on goal setting, and understand the interplay of thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns.

Different CBT interventions may be more effective treatments for specific mental health conditions. For example, research shows that exposure therapy is particularly helpful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder, while interpersonal therapy can help treat anorexia, bulimia, and bipolar disorder.

Before starting CBT, take the time to research different forms of CBT. If you have any preferences or believe that one form of CBT could be a more effective treatment, let your psychologist know. It’s also worth considering whether you’re interested in medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

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3. Find the right psychotherapist.

No matter what form of therapy you’re interested in, finding the right psychotherapist is key. According to the American Psychological Association, your therapeutic relationship—the relationship between you and your therapist—can have long-lasting impacts on your mental health treatment.

While CBT is an effective tool for treating a wide range of mental health conditions, you’ll get the most out of your therapy sessions if you can talk openly about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s also important to remember that difficult feelings and emotions may come up during therapy sessions, and navigating these feelings is an important step toward recovery. As a result, before starting psychotherapy, it’s important to take the time to find a mental health professional you feel comfortable with.

4. Adjust your expectations.

Although cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective and usually a short-term treatment, don’t expect instant results. Working on emotional issues, developing more realistic thoughts, and fostering positive behavior change takes time and requires hard work. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to feel worse during your first few therapy sessions as you begin to confront your mental health problems. In most cases, clients need a few therapy sessions before they start noticing improvement.

5. Remember that therapy is a partnership.

Therapy is the most effective when you’re an active participant. Together with your CBT therapist, you’ll be able to navigate harmful thoughts, evaluate your behaviors, and utilize specific techniques to work toward change in a constructive way. You’ll also have the opportunity to establish a treatment plan, work on homework assignments between CBT sessions, and experiment with different forms of CBT.

If you have any concerns during therapy, make sure you and your CBT therapist are on the same page. Ultimately, you and your therapist should agree about the major issues and your treatment plan. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to talk to your therapist.

Personalized, Data-Driven CBT in Washington DC

Whether you’re seeking treatment for marital problems or experiencing negative thoughts, CBT can help you start feeling better.

To find the right psychotherapist, reach out to a mental health provider through the Therapy Group of DC. We’ll connect you to a CBT therapist you feel comfortable with based on your personal preferences and requirements. One of our experienced, qualified therapists will help you navigate your current problems, learn new skills to cope with difficult situations, and learn how to become your own therapist.

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