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Anxiety General Stress

In Part 1, we looked at some of the causes of worry, and considered a few things that would help ease symptoms, including taking action. To read that, click here:

In counseling, there are a variety of methods that are effective in addressing ways to move through worry and anxiety, including exploring what thoughts, perceptions, feelings and beliefs tend to drive our concerns the most. Here are a couple to highlight.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
One approach is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT. In times of stress and worry, negative thoughts tend to escalate, and things may seem or feel worse than what they turn out to be. CBT involves confronting your emotions and anxieties, in an attempt to reduce or overcome the emotions/anxieties.

Dr. Aaron T. Beck is recognized as the founder of CBT. According to the website for The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the way that “individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself. Individuals’ perceptions are often distorted and unhelpful, particularly when they are distressed.”  According to The Beck Institute, a therapist utilizing CBT helps people “identify their distressing thoughts and evaluate how realistic the thoughts are. Then they learn to change their distorted thinking. When they think more realistically, they feel better. The emphasis is also consistently on solving problems and initiating behavioral changes.”

Outline of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy model:

Situation —-> Something happens in your life

Automatic Thought(s) —-> You have thoughts about it that quickly pop into your head

Reaction —-> These thoughts elicit an emotion, a behavior, or a physiological response

During therapy sessions, counselors join with individuals to navigate through these situations and explore thoughts and reactions together. Counseling is personalized to every individual in therapy. It is through this relationship that guidance is offered to discover ways of coping, changing, and growing.

CBT is a foundational and established approach in counseling with an abundance of research. CBT has been “scientifically tested and found to be effective in more than 2,000 studies for the treatment of many different health and mental health conditions,” according to The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

CBT is “simple, concrete, and makes sense,” and individuals learn “why they are thinking what they are thinking, feeling what they are feeling, and behaving how they are behaving,” said Vanessa Teixeira, a licensed mental health counselor, who was interviewed in writer Lisa R. Rhodes’ article in Counseling Today. Once individuals have that knowledge, “they can choose to actively participate in their treatment by making certain simple and concrete changes to their thinking and behavior.”

Core beliefs

Another approach in counseling is taking a look at core beliefs and how they may alter one’s perspective.

What is considered a core belief? Writer Robert Wilson explained in his article for Psychology Today entitled Are Negative Core Beliefs Wrecking Your Life? that “our brains are hard-wired to remember things that scare us so that we can avoid them in the future. This means that a belief formed in childhood that may have served you then doesn’t necessarily serve you now. Once you have a core belief, it will cause you to only be able to see things from one perspective – one that agrees with or perpetuates the belief.”

Wilson described examples of what would be negative core beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough; I’m not lovable; I’m worthless; I’m not confident; the world is dangerous; people are untrustworthy. (Positive core beliefs would be the opposite of these.)” The existence of these beliefs is what can cause a variety of issues to play out in life, including difficulty in handling stress. “Do you procrastinate on doing things that would help promote your career? Do you have trouble making friends or have problems with maintaining a relationship? Do you find yourself thinking about the same thing obsessively? Does everything have to be perfect before you can relax or move forward? Do you have compulsive behavior, such as excessive handwashing?”

The good news is that bringing awareness to these beliefs can be the start of changing them. ”If you are noticing some of these problems in your life, the first step is to become aware of your negative core or limiting beliefs. You can do this by noticing when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Then try to recognize what stimulated the feeling. Start looking for habits or patterns in your behavior and what triggers them,” according to Wilson. “Once you’ve identified beliefs that are not serving you, you’ll want to replace them. In order to change your limiting and core beliefs, you must start with new ones that are believable to you and build toward bigger and better ones. This usually requires evidence that the new belief you want is true and makes the old one false.”

CBT and core beliefs are just a couple of the multitude of ways therapists help individuals, couples, and families explore root causes of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If you find you need support in these areas or in other areas of your life, The Refuge Center for Counseling is here to help you. You can schedule an intake appointment by calling (615) 591-5262 or by emailing [email protected] to discuss setting up an intake session, where our trained staff will connect you with one of our counselors.


The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Understanding CBT

Understanding CBT

Lisa R. Rhodes
Adapting CBT to meet clients’ needs
Counseling Today

Robert Wilson
Are Negative Core Beliefs Wrecking Your Life?
Psychology Today