In the early 1900’s, the foundations for what was to become Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) were spearheaded by psychology leaders like behaviorist John B. Watson. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the first successful experiments using CBT were conducted by University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Aaron Beck. CBT originates from a combination of behaviorism and cognitive therapy psychology practices, with a goal to help patients navigate 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 all interconnected, and that at times negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help patients deal with overwhelming or large-scale problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. A CBT therapist often revolves treatment plans around each individual patient, where a patient reveals both their strengths and weaknesses, while also setting goals for the future. 6 to 12 sessions of CBT are usually the norm to maximize benefit in patients with anxiety and depression, but this can vary according to the patient and to the supporting clinician’s decisions on each case.
CBT is not only used to address and treat mental health struggles — research has also found evidence that it is effective in treating physical health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain including joint pain and headaches, as well as insomnia. There is also much promise in terms of advancing the science of CBT to address the needs of specific population groups, such as young people and ethnic minorities, as well as focusing 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, further light is now being shed on the growing mental health crisis in the U.S. In fact, recent data shows 19.86% of U.S. adults or nearly 50 million Americans are currently living with mental illness. That same data also found that of the U.S. adults struggling with mental illness, 56% are not receiving proper treatment. Furthermore, access to in-person mental health treatment is challenging due to clinician shortages and the rising cost of mental healthcare. In recent weeks, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy highlighted the urgent need to address healthcare worker burnout, which has resulted from this understaffing, as well as in longer wait times for in-person visits.
To tackle 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 research that most patients are continuing 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. For people who might live in rural settings, lack transportation, have unpredictable schedules, or face other challenges accessing healthcare, iCBT provides a continuous support system which allows patients to return to the psychoeducational materials and tools any time they need to.
When it comes to iCBT effectiveness, the data is very clear. One study showed anxiety and depression symptoms in participants were cut in half and remained so even 12 months after the start of iCBT treatment. Additionally, one of our studies found recovery rates in participants were high and in line with face-to-face therapy. These findings are encouraging and provide one solution to the current mental health crisis people in all age groups are facing. By exposing more people in need of mental health treatment to solutions like CBT and iCBT, we can improve overall health outcomes and see rates of mental health conditions decline.
The evolution of CBT has helped pave the way for the growth of digital solutions like iCBT, and as we look toward the future these therapeutic approaches show no sign of slowing down. Market research predicts the digital therapeutics market will be worth nearly $36 billion by 2030. By continuing to prioritize research in the mental health field, digital interventions will only become increasingly accessible. As this type of growth continues, we can ensure people everywhere have access to evidence-based mental healthcare to combat our growing mental health crisis in the U.S.
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