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What is CBT? This is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Michael Picco
Michael Picco

Technical Director - Energy & Environment

In the 1960s and ’70s several psychologists began to combine behaviour therapy with cognitive treatments meant to change clients’ negative patterns of thinking and information processing. Although a number of individuals played important roles in the early advancement of cognitive treatments, Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis are most often credited with the development of these treatments. Both were originally trained as psychoanalysts, and both described their dissatisfaction with traditional cbt interventions for substance abuse psychoanalysis as the reason they sought to develop new approaches to treating depression, anxiety, and related problems. Ellis referred to his form of treatment as rational emotive therapy and, later, rational emotive behavior therapy, and Beck used the term cognitive therapy. Both treatments were focused on helping clients to shift their beliefs, assumptions, and predictions from being negative, depressive, anxious, and dysfunctional to being more realistic, positive, and adaptive.

cognitive behavioral therapy

By the way, in Germany, most psychotherapists who are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy call themselves behavioral therapists. For example, people who have developed depressive thoughts often tend to withdraw and give up their hobbies. Cognitive therapy helps to identify this mechanism and find ways to become more active again. Such thought patterns can sometimes develop into self-fulfilling prophecies and make life difficult for the people affected. Cognitive therapy helps people learn to replace these thought patterns with more realistic and less harmful thoughts.

Starting treatment

We may believe that being right is more important than the feelings of others, being able to admit when we’ve made a mistake or being fair and objective. This cognitive distortion is an extreme form of generalizing, in which we generalize one or two instances or qualities into a global judgment. For example, if we fail at a specific task, we may conclude that we are a total failure in not only that area but all areas. Clearly, our emotions are not always indicative of the objective truth, but it can be difficult to look past how we feel. We are often concerned about fairness, but this concern can be taken to extremes.

  • Some people even turn to CBT for help coping with chronic health issues, like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
  • According to behavioral theory, certain behaviors that might affect your life negatively develop from things you learned in your past.
  • Along the way, clients will most likely be given “homework” to do between sessions.
  • A sound therapeutic relationship is necessary for effective therapy, but not the focus.

Some people already feel much better after a few sessions, while others need treatment for several months. This depends on the kind and severity of the problems, among other things. is offered in psychotherapy practices, hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. Cognitive behavioral therapy requires the patient’s commitment and own initiative.

Limitations of CBT

Analytic psychotherapy, which has its origin in classic Freudian psychoanalysis, uses different methods. Here the therapist tries to help the patient discover and understand problems and their deeper causes. In your first few sessions, you and your therapist will likely talk about how long therapy might last. You may even feel anxious about sharing your difficulties with a stranger.

cognitive behavioral therapy

The simple act of writing down these good things can forge new associations in your brain that make it easier to see the positive, even when you are experiencing negative emotions. If you are a therapist who uses mindfulness-based approaches, consider finding or pre-recording some short mindfulness meditation exercises for your clients. Making a situation exposure hierarchy involves means listing situations that you would normally avoid (Boyes, 2012).

How to find a CBT therapist

While surface emotions might be apparent, deeper underlying emotions can influence reactions. This is followed by bridging from the previous session to establish continuity. The agenda of what will be talked about in the session is set up collaboratively, and the homework the patient had to do between the sessions is reviewed before plunging into talking about any problem. Issues on the agenda are talked about punctuated with feedback and summaries. The session ends with setting up further homework and a final summary. An individual’s immediate, unpremeditated interpretations of events are referred to as automatic thoughts.

Some forms of therapy assume that the main reason people get better in therapy is because of the positive relationship between the therapist and client. Cognitive-behavioral therapists believe it is important to have a good, trusting relationship, but that is not enough. CBT therapists believe that the clients change because they learn how to think differently and they act on that learning.

Uses for CBT

It can be overwhelming to be faced with a huge goal, like opening a business or remodeling a house. This is true in mental health treatment as well, since the goal to overcome depression or anxiety and achieve mental wellness can seem like a monumental task. Mindfulness meditations, in particular, can function as helpful tools for your clients in between therapy sessions, such as to help ground them in the present moment during times of stress. On the right, there is a flow chart that you can fill out based on how these behaviors and feelings are perpetuated.

If when you attempted to learn your multiplication tables you spent only one hour per week studying them, you might still be wondering what 5 X 5 equals. You very likely spent a great deal of time at home studying your  multiplication tables, maybe with flashcards. Therefore, the inductive method encourages us to look at our thoughts as being hypotheses or guesses that can be questioned and tested. If we find that our hypotheses are incorrect (because we have new information), then we  can change our thinking to be in line with how the situation really is. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, and Rational Living Therapy emphasize aspects of stoicism. You can set your phone to remind you throughout the day to stop what you are doing and think of the positive things around you.

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