What is CBT Therapy?



If you’ve done any research into common therapeutic techniques or anxiety treatment methodologies, you’ve probably have heard of CBT. CBT is a common technique used by many therapists, but what is CBT and who can benefit from it? How exactly does CBT therapy work?


In this article, we’ve compiled answers to some common questions that many people have about CBT before trying it out for themselves. If you read this article and still have questions about CBT and whether it might be right for you, reach out to us to get in touch with a CBT therapist at our practice. Many of our therapists are experts in CBT and can help you identify if it’s right for you.


What is CBT?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which essentially means that it is a therapeutic technique rooted in the relationship between our cognitions (aka thoughts), our behaviors, and our emotions. CBT as a practice was first started by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960’s, and has since become one of the most wide-spread therapeutic techniques.


CBT is rooted in the idea that our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are inextricably linked. One of the basic principles of CBT is that problematic thought or behavior patterns can lead to increased psychological distress. By identifying and re-working those thinking and behavior patterns, CBT helps people shift from a state of distress into a state of healthy thriving.


How Does CBT Therapy Work?

CBT therapy is a little different from some other therapies, like EMDR. Instead of following a strict set of protocols and procedures, CBT therapy is a general approach that involves working through unhelpful thinking patterns, usually by practicing different exercises with a CBT therapist during talk therapy sessions.


Participating in CBT therapy might involve working through negative cognitions in partnership with a CBT therapist during therapy sessions. A CBT therapist might also assign “homework” for you to complete in between sessions, which can help you build new skills and add new coping strategies to your problem-solving toolbox.


Who Can CBT Therapy Help?

CBT can help many different kinds of people, whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition or you just want additional help coping with life’s everyday challenges and struggles.


CBT is probably most well known as an anxiety treatment, but in reality it’s so much more than an anxiety treatment! CBT is commonly used for many different kinds of conditions and circumstances, including depression, eating disorders, PTSD, substance abuse, sleep disorders, and many more.


Beyond treating specific mental health conditions, CBT can also help you:

  • Build skills to cope with challenging circumstances

  • Come to terms with a life transition

  • Cope with grief or the loss of a loved one

  • Work through past trauma

  • Better manage your emotions

  • Build skills to better communicate with loved ones

  • Feel less distress and upset

  • Practice self-love and self-forgiveness


If you’re wondering if CBT can help you or if you have more questions about whether it’s a fit for your circumstances, reach out to us with your questions.


CBT Techniques

There are several different techniques that a CBT therapist might use during CBT therapy:


Identifying negative thoughts. This is one of the most important parts of CBT. By identifying negative or unhelpful thoughts - thoughts like “I’m worthless” or “No one will ever love me” - a CBT therapist can help draw attention to the emotional and behavioral impact those thoughts are having on you. Identifying negative thoughts and recognizing their impact is the first step to re-working them.


Reality checking. Our brains can create negative thinking patterns that aren’t rooted in reality. Reality checking can help snap your brain out of that negative pattern and get back to reality. A CBT therapist might use reality checking to help you investigate negative thoughts: for example, if you have the thought, “I’m a failure” a CBT therapist might ask questions like “Is that really true? What are things that you’ve succeeded at today, no matter how small?”


Reframing. Reframing and reality checking can go hand in hand. Reframing can be another helpful way to rework negative thoughts in CBT therapy. Reframing essentially means looking at something from a different perspective, like reframing the thought “I’m a failure” to “I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my life and those difficult experiences made me the person I am today.”


Journaling. Journaling is a classic therapeutic technique, and for good reason. Journaling can help us engage in self-reflection and gain new perspectives on our thoughts, particularly our negative thinking patterns. Many CBT therapists will recommend journaling or another method of documenting your thoughts. In CBT, journaling can give you space to reflect on unhelpful thinking patterns and a place to practice enacting more beneficial coping strategies.


Role playing. Yes, role playing can be used as a therapeutic technique! It might seem silly or awkward the first time you try it, but role playing can be transformational when it comes to practicing and enacting new skills in real time. Role playing can also create a safe place for skill building in the therapy session, giving you space to try things out before enacting them in your everyday life.


Benefits of CBT Therapy

CBT might be one of the most widely studied and validated forms of therapy. CBT therapy is rooted in the principles of behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology, and has been practiced and studied for many years.


Researchers have studied CBT for many years and found consistent benefits of this treatment technique. Research consistently shows that CBT can help treat anxiety, trauma, depression, phobias, and much more.


CBT is so effective that some studies have found that CBT can be just as effective, if not more effective, than pharmacological treatment options!


How Can I Find a CBT Therapist?

If you’re interested in trying CBT or if you have questions about whether it’s right for you, reach out to us. Many of our therapists are experts in CBT, along with other therapeutic techniques. CBT is just one of the many ways we can help you to lead a happier and more fulfilling life!