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Try this CNN anchor's simple way to relieve stress
04:01 - Source: CNN

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CNN  — 

Wouldn’t you like to stop your stressful, anxious thinking in its tracks? Turns out you can, and while you’re at it, you can make yourself feel and act better too.

That’s the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy, which burst onto the psychological scene in the 1960s and has been gathering accolades ever since.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, CBT, as is it called, is designed to “uncover unhealthy patterns of thought and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.”

It may not be for everyone. Therapists typically assign “homework,” so it takes active participation on the part of the client, and it doesn’t address underlying issues such as childhood trauma or systemic problems in families.

But for those willing to put in the work, cognitive behavioral therapy can be just what the doctor ordered. CBT has been shown in randomized clinical trials to ease depression, anxiety, obsessive thinking, eating and sleep disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and more.

Just what happens during CBT that can produce change in such a wide variety of conditions?

CNN spoke separately with two experts in the field: Jay Fournier, a professor and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at The Ohio State University’s Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Brain Imaging; and Kristen Carpenter, a psychologist in women’s behavioral health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

These conversations have been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

CNN: In a nutshell, what is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Jay Fournier: It’s a structured kind of psychotherapy, much different than the type of therapy often portrayed on TV or in the movies. The focus is on trying to help people get well as quickly as possible by reducing their symptoms as quickly as possible.

CBT tends to focus more on the present than the past, and is typically a shorter-term treatment. The first few sessions with a cognitive behavioral therapist will home in on your goals: What is bothering you and what do you want to change? Then we will set up a treatment plan designed to address those goals within a certain period of time.

My job as a cognitive behavioral therapist is to put myself out of work. I’m trying to train a person to do all the things that I know how to do in their own lives, so that when we stop meeting they can continue doing it without my help.

CNN: In CBT, how do our thoughts affect our actions and feelings?