Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured and goal-oriented type of research-based psychotherapy.

Mental health professionals use CBT to treat or manage a vast range of mental health conditions and emotional concerns. It’s one of the most common and best-studied forms of psychotherapy.

CBT is based on several core principles, including:

  • Psychological issues are partly based on problematic or unhelpful patterns of thinking.
  • Psychological issues are partly based on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  • Psychological issues are partly based on problematic core beliefs, including central ideas about yourself and the world.
  • People experiencing psychological issues can learn better ways of coping with them. This can help relieve their symptoms and improve their mental and emotional health!

During CBT, a mental health professional helps you take a close look at your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. You will come to understand how your thoughts affect your actions and emotions. Through CBT, you can unlearn negative thoughts and behaviors, and learn to adopt healthier thinking patterns and habits.

CBT can be used alone or along with medication and other therapies. Your therapist will customize your treatment based on the issue you’re addressing.

Types of CBT

With continued research and clinical experience, CBT has evolved into a family of related therapies, all sharing a common commitment to a practical, research-proven approach to reducing human suffering. CBT therapies include:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Behavioral Activation
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Compassion Focused Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Emotional Schema Therapy
  • Exposure and Response Prevention
  • Metacognitive Therapy
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Prolonged Exposure
  • Schema Therapy
  • Unified Protocol

How does CBT work?

Basically, CBT works by identifying, tackling, and changing unhelpful thinking so that your mindset, behaviors, and overall well-being improve with practice.

When you change the way you feel about specific situations, for example, it will likely be easier to adapt your behaviors in the future.

In mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, substance use, phobias, and many others, negative thinking takes many forms, like:

  • thinking in black and white
  • overgeneralizing
  • ignoring the positive and focusing on the negative
  • catastrophizing

In CBT, you’ll work with your therapist to identify the thinking patterns that cause your distress. This is an important step in managing overwhelming emotions and unhelpful behaviors.

Though many people think therapy is just chatting with a doctor, CBT is very structured and tailored to each person.

Over time, you’ll learn CBT techniques to acknowledge and challenge thoughts that get in your way.

CBT strategies might include:

  • keeping track of your thoughts and reviewing them later
  • confronting situations that create anxiety to learn coping mechanisms
  • practicing problem-solving with your therapist
  • role-playing interactions with others

By practicing CBT strategies like these with your therapist — and at home by yourself — you’ll develop useful skills like:

  • gaining awareness of unhelpful thoughts and how they impact your emotional state
  • getting a more logical understanding of other people’s actions
  • challenging automatic assumptions
  • accurately assessing reality
  • coping with triggering or upsetting situations
  • learning positive self-talk and how to boost confidence
  • relaxation techniques

The idea is to apply the skills you learn in therapy to your daily life. It’s like exercising any muscle to make it stronger, except this time that muscle is your brain.

It Can CBT Help With?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a valuable tool for treating and managing a wide range of mental health conditions and emotional challenges. People of all ages (including children) can receive CBT.

Mental health disorders that may improve with CBT include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Sexual disorders

Learn More About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Check back soon for related articles.

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DR. TEETERS in video chat with patient while taking notes