Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I-CBT) is an innovative form of therapy that falls under the umbrella term of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I-CBT was developed by Dr. Thomas A. Cordier. Although the therapy embraces the majority of guidelines and the implementation of CBT, the I-CBT concept also focuses a great deal on the interpersonal skills necessary for patients to maintain wellness and integrate better in society. Many people mistake that Interpersonal is simply the relationship between the therapist and patient, although this therapeutic alliance is critical, the emotional intelligence is a fundamental key to optimal patient outcomes.
I-CBT not only serves as a treatment modality but is also a treatment system that coincides with individual treatment, involving various forms of I-CBT groups, behavioral training for parents and specialized treatment for children and adolescents with special needs. I-CBT is also very effective for military members and veterans struggling with PTSD and readjusting to civilian life. The treatment of patients and the training of clinicians using the I-CBT system are universal in that patient treatment and clinician training of the CBT methods are presented in a similar fashion.
Each patient is assigned one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and a variety of other treatments depending upon individual needs. For many, the treatment lasts approximately 16 - 20 weeks, however, the treatment is tailored to each individual patient. When a person is ready to "graduate", their treatment scores have significantly been reduced, in remission, or eliminated.
Contrary to many interpretations of CBT, Cordier believes that therapy cannot be truly effective unless the patient trusts and generally likes his or her therapist. For the first part of therapy, the therapist focuses a great deal on building rapport with the patient. CBT is taught in unison with rapport building through an organized manual that can be learned and understood by patients of all ages. The therapist helps the patient begin to think rationally by first challenging the quick, well-learned irrational thoughts, or “action thoughts,” that cause the patient’s negative emotions and unwarranted behaviors. When the time is deemed appropriate, the therapist begins helping the patient challenge his or her negative core beliefs (developed in childhood and reinforced as the years go on) by discussing and challenging assumptions based upon the patient’s negative core beliefs. Once the patient and therapist are satisfied with the progress that has been made, the patient is “graduated” from the I-CBT program.
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Throughout the last few years, there has been a lot of talk regarding the negative state of mental health in the United States. These problems include difficulties with insurance, access to care, mental health stigma and the public’s perception of mental health treatment (Mechanic, 2002, Chandra et al., 2010, Young, 2013) as well as continuity of care, ineffective treatments, over-prescribing and the need for treatment reform. Interpersonal cognitive behavioral therapy (I-CBT) may be the answer to these problems. I-CBT is a complete treatment system program, designed in order to correct the aforementioned flaws within the realm of outpatient and inpatient mental health and bring validated therapy into the 21st century. These deficiencies are addressed by acknowledging and addressing current issues in human development, socialization, family dynamics, education, and neurology through the training and facilitation of methodology and treatment procedure; therefore promoting optimal treatment delivery and patient wellness.
While mental health treatment utilizing the cognitive behavioral approach has been proven viable effective throughout the years, I-CBT takes the rudiments of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) a step farther. In a sense it is a universal therapy, combining a number of highly validated treatment regimens and therapeutic tools “that are known to work exceptionally well.” These treatments are intercrossed together into a hybrid treatment system (i.e., cognitive therapy (CT), rapid emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), principals of emotional (EI) and social intelligence (SI), behavioral parent training (BPT), parent management training (PMT), clinical workshops, various group milieus, medication management “for those who need it” and an interpersonal approach, all structurally facilitated through the utilization of a step by step organized I-CBT workbook designed for patients, parents, teachers, administrators and of course providers in a format that is age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate, skill level appropriate and culturally suitable.
While the primary focus for effective I-CBT treatment delivery rests upon the patient/provider relationship and rapport building, the cognitive behavioral and emotional intelligence concepts and tools are highly structured and “as previously mentioned are comprehensible for patients of all ages, genders, cultures and socioeconomic statuses as well as adaptable into their daily lives.
As noted, one of the essential differences when comparing the I-CBT approach to other types of CBT approaches is the constituent of emotional intelligence (EI). While traditional CBT focuses on changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, I-CBT utilize principals of EI in order to 1) help individuals get their needs met by increasing social skills and improving their ability to cognitively resist impulse. EI also aids patients in balancing out their emotions and cognitions so that better decisions are made (Goleman, 1995) and 2) in order to teach each patient the basics of the emotional brain. When patients can visualize what is occurring in their brains when emotional responses overtake prefrontal cognitions, they can better control these impulses. Because human beings are “evolutionarily” emotionally driven; and also because human emotions are processed differently than cognitions, it makes sense for one to pay attention to his or her feelings (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Although I-CBT “like traditional forms of CBT” focuses on changing automatic negative thoughts, denying somatic markers “gut instincts” can hinder individuals from making crucial life decisions or avoiding immediate danger (Damasio, 1994). Therefore, an essential component of the I-CBT system is geared toward teaching patients how to pay attention to their feelings “without discarding cognitions and as aforementioned, to resist impulse through rational thinking.
Another salient ingredient in the I-CBT process is the successful utilization of behavioral parent training (BPT). I-CBT acknowledges that children and adolescent issues are linked to family dysfunction. The I-CBT program requires each parent whose child or adolescent is being treated by an I-CBT clinician, to participate in the highly successful BPT workshop for 7 weeks. Here the parents learn to reinforce “in the home environment” the CBT methods that their children are learning in their individual and group I-CBT sessions. In BPT parents also learn the skills to work on their own problems so that the household is a calmer more relaxed environment. Parents are also taught the fundamental principals of parent management training (PMT) which includes reinforcement strategies to implement in parenting, such as praising and rewarding positive behaviors and ignoring negative ones (Kazdin, 1985: Kazdin, 1995). The concepts of traditional CBT skills and PMT are married together in order to promote rational, emotional and behavioral change within the home environment. When parents begin utilizing the reinforcement strategies at home; the children earn rewards and praise through the usage of their CBT skills that they learned in their individual treatment sessions.
In conclusion, when the highly effective skills of I-CBT that include CBT, EI, SI,BPT, and PMT are combined and facilitated by the provider and these methods are utilized by the patient and family within individual treatment, group therapy and reinforced in the home environment as well as the child’s or adolescent’s school environment, the result is a highly effective treatment that promotes patient and family well-being for many years to come.
The I-CBT system can promote the above necessary changes and serve as a catalyst to improve the state of our nation’s mental health system before it’s too late. For more information call the NECBT at 860-430-5515.
What Makes Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Different?
Thomas Cordier, PhD, LPC, D-ICBT has been a Psychotherapist since 2002 and has helped thousands of individuals and families overcome behavioral health disorders using his treatment system. Dr. Cordier is the Executive Director of New England Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Founder of the Cordier Institute / American Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Training. Author of, Interpersonal Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treatment System, The 21st Century Recipe for Treatment Success, Nova Scientific 2016 (available Barnes & Nobel/Nova Publishing/Amazon).