Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short, is a particular method or technique that emphasizes action-based solutions for therapy clients. Individuals are encouraged to relate their behavior to their emotions in order to understand where the problem lies and take action on the situation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatments are individualized to address the symptoms of each individual seeking treatment and aims to target specific disorders including addiction, depression, anxiety, personality disorders and more.  This particular type of therapy is widely used and considered to be one of the most popular and effective treatments for many conditions.

Goals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The main goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to act upon psychological distress and reduce damaging behaviors caused by this distress. In other words, patients undergoing CBT can expect to observe a change in their behavior over the course of treatment and will start thinking and reacting differently to particular situations that may have caused psychological distress in the past. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy offers a way to promote self-help for individuals.

When is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Used?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is mostly used to treat issues considered as behavioral issues and/or personality disorders. For example, conditions normally treated with CBT include substance abuse, sleep disorders, eating disorders, social phobia, anxiety disorders, low self-esteem and more. It is also interesting to note that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown results surpassing those of pharmaceutical treatment for different types of depression, including severe forms of depression and is now considered the primary treatment for patients suffering from schizophrenia. Some studies have also shown that CBT can help patients who are triggered by biological factors, such as a severe illness or virus.

Patients in both clinical and non-clinical environments can make good use of this particular type of treatment as it emphasizes the positive outcomes of self-help and homework-based therapy.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

The aim of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is primarily to identify new ways of reacting to difficulties that may trigger the negative behaviors impacting the patient’s daily life. The first step is to establish a trusting relationship between the patient and his or her therapist, as they will both be working together in an effort to change behaviors and reactions to stimuli in the patient’s life. The patient will be asked to reflect and identify behavioral patterns as well as techniques of coping and adjustment when confronted with external stimuli that may trigger negative behavior.

CBT separates itself in two major components: Cognitive Therapy and Behavioral Therapy. The cognitive aspect of this particular type of therapy is to encourage the patient to be more aware of their thought process and actions. On the other hand, the behavioral component focuses on developing tools and techniques to alter the behaviors triggered by their thoughts or feelings. CBT patient can expect to be in treatment for an average of 16 sessions, as it is considered to be a brief, time-limited therapy. After each session, patients can be expected to go home with homework, or personal work to complete. Since Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to promote self-help and the independence of the patient, individuals are expected to complete assignments on their own time, such as writing journals, using relaxation techniques throughout the day, distraction from the stimulus and breathing control, for example. Patients are expected to take small steps towards the fulfillment of a larger goal in order to entirely change their behavioral issue – this means that little by little, individuals will be asked to confront the issue and use the techniques discussed in therapy to ensure a positive outcome when faced with situations that trigger the disorder or problem at hand. Over time, patients will develop positive and helpful ways of thinking or reacting to a certain situation or problem and will eventually be able to better cope and even suppress negative reactions to the stimulus.

Criticisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is slowly becoming a new standard in therapy practice. Therapist in the United Kingdom and other countries have been widely using CBT with great success, which in turn encouraged therapists within the United States to start adopting this method as well over the past few decades and its impact and usefulness is getting more recognition as studies and data are released.


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Sudak, D.(2012). Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. The Psychiatric Clinicsof North America, 35(1), 99-110.

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