Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short) is a treatment model that is support by research for a variety of mental health conditions including, depression, anxiety, and ADHD. The premise of CBT is straightforward — how you think affects how you act, and negative thoughts create negative behaviors. CBT works to change your thinking and teaches people new ways to perceive themselves, others, and the world around them. Used in conjunction with other approaches including emotional regulation strategies (mindfulness, meditation, etc.) and behavioral modification, individuals with ADHD learn ways to increase their control over thoughts, feelings, and actions. During one of the first sessions, we often start with drawing a diagram like this one:
The client identifies a stressful situation or circumstance, and we start with any point on the triangle — whichever is easiest for them. We then identify the interaction between how they felt in the situation, what they were thinking, and how they acted as a result. Then, during the course of treatment, clients will develop intervention strategies for each point on the triangle — changing distorted thoughts and learning new ways of flexible thinking, gaining control over their feelings by learning to calming strategies, and developing habits and changing destructive behaviors by replacing them with new ones.
How long does this take? It depends on the client. People come to therapy for different reasons and at various levels of “readiness” to make changes. This readiness sometimes impacts the pace of therapy, and whether someone is motivated to work in-between sessions. For motivated individuals who are actively looking to make changes and can easily identify goals, improvements can start to be seen in as early as 2-3 sessions. However lasting change and new habits take time to build. Typically therapy can last somewhere between 15-20 sessions with more frequent weekly meetings at the beginning and then spaced over time to twice a month or monthly. Although this can be costly, many will say the investment in themselves is worthwhile and produces lasting changes over time.