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In the early 1900s, the foundations of what was to become cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were laid by leaders in psychology such as behaviorist John B. Watson. However, it was not until the 1960s that the first successful experiments with CBT were conducted by Dr. Aaron Beck of the University of Pennsylvania. CBT originates from a combination of behaviorism and the psychological practices of cognitive therapy, with the goal of helping patients deal with negative thoughts and personal challenges, focusing on well-being and positive mental health. CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected and that sometimes negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help patients cope with overwhelming or large-scale problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. The CBT therapist often revolves treatment plans around each individual patient, where the patient reveals their strengths and weaknesses while setting goals for the future. 6 to 12 sessions of CBT is usually the norm to maximize benefit in patients with anxiety and depression, but this may vary depending on the patient and the decisions of the supporting clinician on a case-by-case basis.

CBT is not only used to address and treat mental health problems – research has also found evidence that it is effective in treating physical health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain including joint pain and headaches, and insomnia . There are also many promises regarding advancement of science of CBT to address the needs of specific populations, such as young people and ethnic minorities, and to focus on specific emotions such as envy.

With recent traumatic events such as mass shootings, racial injustice and inequality, and the ongoing impact of the global pandemic, additional light is now being shed on the growing mental health crisis in the US. data shows that 19.86% of US adults, or nearly 50 million Americans, are currently living with mental illness. The same data also show that of US adults struggling with mental illness, 56% are not receiving appropriate treatment. In addition, access to in-person mental health treatment is a challenge due to physician shortages and rising costs of mental health care. In recent weeks, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy emphasized the urgent need to address health worker burnout resulting from these staff shortages, as well as longer wait times for in-person visits.

To deal with these ongoing struggles, more people are turning to health solutions like CBT and Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (iCBT) to help minimize the negative mental health impact many are currently facing. iCBT follows the same principles as CBT, but through an easily accessible digital format. In fact, we saw in our recent survey that most patients continue to seek virtual care for their mental health needs, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. Through its 24/7 flexibility, users can access iCBT resources from anywhere using a smart phone, tablet or desktop computer. For people who may live in rural settings, lack transportation, have unpredictable schedules, or face other challenges accessing health care, iCBT provides an ongoing support system that allows patients to return to psychoeducational materials and tools anytime they need.

When it comes to the effectiveness of iCBT, the data is very clear. one study participants’ reported symptoms of anxiety and depression were halved and remained so even 12 months after starting iCBT treatment. Additionally, one of our studies found that participant recovery rates were high and consistent with face-to-face therapy. These findings are encouraging and provide one solution to the current mental health crisis facing people of all age groups. By exposing more people in need of mental health treatment to solutions like CBT and iCBT, we can improve overall health outcomes and see a reduction in rates of mental illness.

The evolution of CBT helped pave the way for the growth of digital solutions like iCBT, and as we look to the future, these therapeutic approaches show no signs of slowing down. market research predicts that the digital therapy market will be worth nearly $36 billion by 2030. As we continue to prioritize mental health research, digital interventions will become more accessible. As this type of growth continues, we can ensure that people everywhere have access to evidence-based mental health care to combat our growing mental health crisis in the US

Photo: SIphotography, Getty Images

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