Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy of which the main tenet is that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. In this treatment approach the way we think or feel about something will impact the action we take and the choices we make. The CBT therapist believes that the client can learn to shift unhelpful thought patterns, change patterns of behavior and acquire new coping skills which will then alleviate symptoms. The focus of this treatment is on the person’s current life, rather than on the past, and aims to help the client gain healthier coping strategies.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was founded by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960’s. At this time behavioral therapies had become well known and were effective at treating some conditions like phobias and Anxiety. Beck noticed that the depressed clients he was working with often held negative views about themselves, others and the world. He found that Freudian psychoanalysis, which emphasizes exploring the past, was not effective in shifting these negative thought patterns and began to explore the impact this had on depression. Since then CBT has been proven to be an effective treatment for multiple mental health concerns including Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Phobias.

Clients can expect to attend weekly talk therapy sessions combined with homework assignments that allow them to practice new skills in their daily lives. At the conclusion of treatment the client should gain an awareness of their negative thought patterns and unhealthy behaviors and how these contribute to their distress. Clients will feel more control over their thoughts, feelings and behaviors and will have learned tools and strategies to better cope with life’s stressors.

Learn More About Commonly Used Techniques in CBT

CBT can include a wide range of techniques and exercises aimed at helping the client to shift their perspective and gain healthy coping strategies. Here are a few common techniques:

Cognitive Restructuring

The therapist helps the client become aware of negative thought patterns and learn to reframe or replace them with thoughts that are more helpful. For example, “I failed the math test because I’m so stupid!” can be replaced with “I did not do my best on this math test. I know that if I get some extra help I can do better on the next test.”

Guided Discovery

The Therapist helps a client identify core beliefs and open themselves up to alternative perspectives. The therapist may ask you to challenge these beliefs with evidence and offer alternative ways of looking at a situation.

Relaxation and Stress Reduction Techniques

The therapist aims to help clients reduce overwhelming feelings and gain a sense of control. This can include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.


How long will I be in treatment?

CBT is typically a short-term therapy, however, the number of sessions will vary from person to person. The client and therapist will agree on goals and the treatment will conclude when the client feels they have achieved these goals and is confident in moving forward with the knowledge and skills gained in therapy. Don’t get too caught up on how long it takes and focus on the progress you make.

What can I expect from a typical CBT session?

This treatment typically involves weekly talk therapy sessions where you will identify core beliefs and learn to challenge your automatic thoughts. While it is helpful to understand your past, anticipate most of the discussion relating to your current life. This will be combined with homework assignments to help clients master new skills in the real world.