Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? – Starling Minds

By: Janet Pun

Updated | Oct 22, 2019


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) concentrates on the connections between thought patterns, emotional state, and physical sensations.

It guides people to objectively evaluate how to think about themselves, other people, and events in their lives. This helps to strengthen the neural connections that lead to positive thinking and behavior. We do this by teaching strategies to recognize and combat negative patterns, and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It’s like having a personal trainer for the mind!

Gold Standard Mental Healthcare

CBT is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for talk therapy. Organizations that endorse it include the World Health Organization, the National Institute of Mental Health, and national psychiatric and psychological associations in Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK. Likewise, hundreds of well-designed research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of CBT for thousands of people.

How Effective is CBT?

Research shows that CBT is the most effective form of treatment for those coping with depression and anxiety. CBT alone is 50-75% effective for overcoming depression and anxiety after 5 – 15 modules. Medication alone is effective, however, science still does not understand the long-term effects on the brain and body. Medication and CBT combined are most effective in helping people overcome mental illness.

The Effectiveness of Online CBT vs. Face-to-Face Treatment

After studying 3,876 people, self-guided online CBT is found to be significantly more effective in lowering depression symptoms compared to face-to-face treatment. Other study findings show that the treatment adherence of online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is 82%. Treatment adherence is how likely someone is to follow a treatment plan. Over 86% of Starling Minds online CBT users will improve their mental health and become more mentally fit.

Our Approach to Online CBT

Similar to the learning that takes place in face-to-face Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions, our programs are designed to take members through a similar journey.

Starling’s programs model the criteria of success in clinical CBT settings wherein members:

  • Establish rapport with the program
  • Identify treatment goal(s) and a sense of hope
  • Normalize mental health issues in order to understand that they are not alone
  • Complete assessments to see where they sit on the mental health continuum
  • Identify triggers and causes that move them up or down the mental health continuum           
  • Identify behaviours that activate and increase energy/motivation
  • Identify barriers to achieving a goal and develop personal problem-solving skills
  • Learn emotional regulation techniques and plan to proactively use them when triggered
  • Develop and practice goal-setting skills even when setbacks occur
  • Improve self-awareness of tendencies that drain energy
  • Learn strategies to manage and reframe negative thoughts
  • Gain insight into long-standing patterns that need to change
  • Identify strategies that can be used when triggered
  • Become more assertive and confident
Normalizing Mental Health Struggles

Normalizing mental illness is a mental health technique that helps people put their issues into perspective and understand that they are not alone. Felt empathy, safety and confidentiality are paramount in the success of face-to-face CBT sessions. Successful psychologists actively normalize a patient’s experiences to minimize their distress and empower them to take steps forward. We achieve this in Starling Minds by:

  • Using warm, welcoming, and empathetic language
  • Providing members with anonymous IDs so that they can comfortably interact with their peers
  • Asking poll questions about mental health challenges and revealing what other members answer
  • Offering an open community forum in each session that allows members to reflect and share anonymously with their peers

“It’s encouraging to know that there are others who have more than one family member with mental health concerns and that we truly are not alone in that regard.” – Starling Member

“This program is really helping. I appreciate seeing and reading others’ comments. Knowing that we are are not alone and that we are working together on improving our days feels empowering. Thank you for the strategies to take steps to move forward and become stronger.” – Starling Member

Cognitive Behavioural Skills Learned

In a session-by-session format, Starling Members incrementally build a skillset where they gain lifelong strategies to help them manage their mental health. Our programs are developed based on the seminal CBT approaches by a doctorate of psychology who has treated hundreds of people for a wide range of mental illnesses.

Developing Self-Awareness Skills

By using Starling’s Assessment throughout our programs, members work to improve the following self-awareness skills:

  • Understanding their current place on the mental health continuum.
  • Understanding of the factors that cause them to move up or down the continuum.
  • Aligning their estimated mental health state with an objective measure (ie. perceived mental health is similar to an objective measure).
  • Ability to identify early warning signs when mental health is declining and understanding which proactive steps work best for the member.

 Understanding Mood Triggers

By using Starling’s Mood Tracker throughout our programs, members work to improve the following self-awareness skills:

  • Members become more aware of their moods.
  • Members have an increased understanding and ability to identify the moods that cause their mental health to decline
  • Members can accurately rate the intensity of their moods.
  • Members have associated scales to rank symptom intensity for each mood.
  • Members can identify triggers that cause their moods to shift.
  • Members can identify patterns in their moods
  • Members can proactively change a situation, thought, or behaviour to better manage a mood shift.

Developing Realistic Goal-Setting

By using Starling’s Goal Setter and/or Workbook, members work to develop the following goal-setting skills:

  • Members become more self-aware of current capabilities and levels of functioning.
  • Members develop clear criteria for what success looks like based on SMART goals.
  • Members know which of their tendencies and patterns lead to failure.
  • After attempting to complete a goal, members are guided to learn from the outcome regardless of success or failure.
  • Members are able to get back on track quicker after experiencing a setback or failure.
  • Members demonstrate success setting short-term goals (e.g. a small chore like paying a bill or tidying for ten minutes).
  • Members demonstrate success setting multi-step goals (e.g. inviting a friend over that you prepare a meal for).

 Building Emotional-Regulating Skills

These are the emotional regulation skills members work to improve:

  • Members become more self-aware of the relationship between their moods, thoughts, physiology (i.e. body sensations), and behaviours.
  • Members become more aware of what it feels like to be relaxed.
  • Members have a variety of strategies that reduce the intensity of negative moods and increase a sense of relaxation.
  • Members know which strategies work best for them in different situations and conditions.
  • Members can proactively manage their moods, thoughts, and physiology (i.e. body sensations) 
  • Members know what it feels like to be in the productive ‘zone’.
  • Members have effective strategies for getting into the ‘zone’.

“I’ve found I’m managing my moods, thoughts, and physiology better by using a regulation strategy immediately after a trigger. What motivates me is knowing what it feels like to be in the zone.” – Starling Member

Developing Thought-Balancing Skills

These are the thought-balancing skills members gain:

  • Members become more aware of their thoughts.
  • Members have a greater sense when they are on automatic pilot.
  • Members have an increased understanding of their thought patterns.
  • Members know which thoughts trigger negative moods.
  • Member self-talk becomes more compassionate
  • Members are able to proactively change negative thoughts to manage moods.
  • Members know which strategies to use to balance their thoughts and formulate a new position that is objective and realistic.
  • Members are able to hold this new position when triggered so that negative thoughts and moods don’t spiral.

“Since I tend to over-analyze everything, the ‘Thought Balancing’ strategy has helped me focus on more realistic thoughts. By holding these new positions when I’m triggered, I’ve been feeling a lot more stable.” – Starling Member

Want to learn more about our CBT approach?

Starling Minds Online CBT Program FAQs

What’s the difference between Online CBT Programs and EAPs?

The Differences between EAPs and Online CBT solutions

A Platform For You

Starling Minds’ platform has programs to target your organization’s needs. Whether your employees are looking to build a more resilient mind, are at-work and struggling, or are currently on stress leave, Starling Minds is here.

Starling Return-To-Health Program supports an educator’s rehabilitation and reduces anxiety when they are confident to return

Starling Mental Fitness Program is designed for educators who are looking to build resilience to stress, anxiety, and depression to better manage growing stressors in the profession

Learn why our clients chose Starling as their mental health platform by getting in touch with us – request a demo.

Janet Pun

Janet is an energetic and passionate lover of all things related to marketing and brand strategy. With her background in tech, digital media, and mental health advocacy, she hopes to make the world and the people who live in it a bit happier and healthier.

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