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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

In a psychotherapy setting, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches patients how to recognize and alter unhelpful or distressing thought patterns that have an adverse impact on their emotions and behavior.

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to alter the automatic negative beliefs that might exacerbate our emotional problems, such as melancholy and anxiety, and contribute to them. Our mood is negatively impacted by these uncontrollable unpleasant thoughts.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT includes a variety of methods and strategies that target our attitudes, feelings, and actions. They can include self-help techniques as well as organised psychotherapies. Many particular therapeutic modalities that incorporate cognitive behavioural therapy include:

  • The main goals of cognitive therapy are to recognise and alter incorrect or distorted thought processes, emotional reactions, and behaviours.
  • Using therapeutic techniques like emotional control and mindfulness, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) targets negative or distressing ideas and behaviours.
  • Multimodal treatment contends that seven distinct but related modalities—behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal factors, and drug/biological considerations—must be addressed in order to effectively treat psychological problems.
  • Identifying illogical beliefs, aggressively challenging these beliefs, and finally learning to recognise and alter these thought patterns are all part of rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT).

Although there are various forms of cognitive behavioural therapy, they all aim to change the ingrained thought patterns that cause psychological suffering.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

More than just recognising thinking patterns is a goal of CBT. To assist people in overcoming these tendencies, it employs a variety of tactics. Below are just a few examples of cognitive behavioural therapy procedures.

Identifying Negative Thoughts

It’s critical to understand the conditions, emotions, and thoughts that lead to maladaptive behaviour. Nonetheless, this procedure might be challenging, particularly for those who have trouble reflecting. But taking the time to name these ideas can also help you uncover who you are and offer perceptions that are vital to the healing process.

Practicing New Skills

In cognitive behavioural therapy, clients are frequently given new abilities that they can put to use in everyday life. For instance, a person with a substance use disorder might put new coping mechanisms to the test and practise avoiding or handling social situations that might otherwise lead to relapse.


Setting goals can help you make changes to enhance your health and quality of life as you recover from mental illness. Your goal-setting abilities can be improved and strengthened during cognitive behavioural therapy.

You might need to be taught how to define your goal or how to tell your goals apart into short-term and long-term ones. SMART goals are those that are “specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based,” with an emphasis on the process as well as the result.


During cognitive behavioural therapy, you can learn problem-solving techniques that can help you recognise and address potential issues that could result from both major and minor life stressors. Also, it can lessen the harmful effects of both mental and physical sickness.

Five steps are frequently used in CBT when treating problems:

  • Determine the issue
  • Make a list of potential answers.
  • Analyze the benefits and drawbacks of each prospective fix.
  • Choose a course of action.
  • Apply the solution.


Self-monitoring, also referred to as diary work, is a crucial cognitive behavioural therapy strategy. It entails keeping a running log of your actions, signs, or experiences and sharing them with your therapist.

Your therapist can get the data they require from self-monitoring to give you the finest care. Self-monitoring, for those with eating disorders, could entail keeping a record of eating patterns as well as any thoughts or sensations that might have accompanied the consumption of a meal or snack.

What Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help With

The use of cognitive behavioural therapy as a short-term treatment can assist people in developing the ability to concentrate on their current thoughts and beliefs. 1

A variety of disorders are treated using CBT, including:

  • Addiction
  • Angry problems
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Fear strikes
  • psychological problems
  • Phobias

Cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to assist people in managing, in addition to mental health conditions:

  • Major illnesses
  • Persistent discomfort
  • Breakups
  • Divorce
  • sorrow or loss
  • Sleep issues
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Stress reduction

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The essential tenet of CBT is that thoughts and feelings have a significant impact on behaviour. For instance, a person who obsesses about plane crashes, runway mishaps, and other aviation tragedies would refrain from flying as a result.

Cognitive behavioural therapy teaches patients that while they cannot control every part of their environment, they are still in control of how they perceive and respond to it.

The following are some of the most well-known advantages of CBT:

  • It aids in the development of healthier mental processes by making you aware of the unfavourable and frequently irrational thoughts that negatively affect your feelings and mood.
  • Works for many different types of maladaptive habits.
  • It is frequently less expensive than certain other forms of therapy.
  • Online or in-person treatment is equally as beneficial.

Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The cognitive method takes into account how thoughts and feelings influence behaviours, in contrast to earlier behaviour therapies that nearly entirely focused on associations, reinforcements, and punishments to improve behaviour.

One of the treatment modalities that has undergone the most research nowadays is cognitive behavioural therapy.

  • According to research, the most effective evidence-based treatment for eating disorders is cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Scientific research has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy is useful in treating the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
  • According to a 2018 meta-analysis of 41 trials, CBT assisted persons with anxiety and anxiety-related illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, by reducing their symptoms.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy offers a high level of scientific support for the treatment of substance use disorders, helping persons with these illnesses increase self-control, avoid triggers, and create coping mechanisms for daily stressors.


The fact that CBT is one of the most thoroughly studied therapeutic modalities is due in part to the treatment’s intense focus on measurable outcomes

Things to Consider With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy can present a number of difficulties for patients. Here are several to think about.

Change Can Be Difficult

Several sufferers initially assert that even though they are aware that some thoughts are illogical or unhealthy, simply being aware of these beliefs does not make it simple to change them.

CBT Is Very Structured

The underlying, unconscious resistance to change is less of a focus of cognitive behavioural therapy than it is of other approaches, such as psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

You Must Be Willing to Change

Although self-analysis can be challenging, it is an excellent approach to understand how our interior states influence our actions on the outside.

Progress Is Often Gradual

CBT often involves a progressive procedure that aids in little efforts towards behaviour modification. For instance, a person with social anxiety may begin by merely visualising social settings that make them anxious. They could then practise speaking with friends, relatives, and strangers. The process appears less difficult and the goals are more doable as you gradually work towards a bigger objective.

How to Get Started With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

For a variety of psychological problems, cognitive behavioural therapy can be a useful treatment option. Take the following actions if you think you or someone you care about might benefit from this type of therapy:

  • To find a certified therapist in your region: speak with your doctor or look in the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists’ registry of registered therapists.
  • Think about your specific preferences: such as whether you would benefit more from in-person or online counselling.
  • Set up a consultation with the therapist of your choice: and mark the time on your calendar to ensure that you don’t forget about it or unintentionally book something else during that period.

What to Expect With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If cognitive behavioural therapy is new to you, you might be unsure or afraid about what to anticipate. The initial session starts off similarly to your first visit with any new healthcare professional in many respects.

You’ll probably spend some time at the first session filling out paperwork, including HIPAA papers (privacy forms), insurance information, a therapist-patient service agreement, medical history, and current medications. You’ll probably complete these forms online if you’re receiving counselling online.

The therapist can help you become more aware of the thoughts and beliefs you have that are unhelpful or unrealistic once they have a greater understanding of who you are, the difficulties you face,

and your goals for cognitive behavioural therapy. The next step is to put measures in place that will assist you in adopting better thought and behaviour habits.

You will talk about how your strategies are working and modify the ones that aren’t over subsequent sessions. Your therapist may also recommend cognitive behavioural therapy exercises you may complete independently in between sessions,

such as keeping a journal to track unfavourable thoughts or learning new strategies to manage your anxiety.