By Nasrin Kapadia

B. A. Psychology

17 September 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Table of Contents

Therapy, mental illnesses, or even expressing your emotions has been perceived as a stigma or sign of weakness by our dysfunctional society. However, as times have changed, people have become more aware of the importance of mental health and to open up about it.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment/talk therapy that helps people learn how to identify, understand and change negative, destructive, or disturbing thought patterns resulting in a negative influence on their behavior and emotions that disrupt their day-to-day life. The Therapist will try to figure out your condition and ask you to do something positive daily that could divert your mind from negativity, such as reading articles and motivational lines. 

Individuals learn to develop a positive, rational, and healthier outlook and approach towards life, improving their emotional and mental health. CBT best addresses issues such as:

  • Mental illnesses including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse.
  • Overcoming emotional trauma related to abuse and violence.
  • Learning techniques to cope with grief, loss, and stressful life situations.
  • Identifying and managing uncomfortable and negative emotions and actions. (Rothbaum, B. O., Meadows, E. A., Resick, P., & Foy, D. W. 2000)

Types Of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT encompasses a wide range of approaches and techniques approaches to address one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. There are several specific types of psychotherapeutic approaches that involve CBT, including:

  1. Cognitive therapy is focused on identifying and changing distorted or bothersome thinking patterns, emotional and behavioral responses. (Rothbaum, B.O., Meadows, E.A., Resick, P. and Foy, D.W., 2000)
  2. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) addresses thoughts as well as behaviors while utilizing various strategies such as mindfulness and emotional regulation. 9 (Robins, C.J., Rosenthal, M.Z. and Cuper, P.F., 2010)
  3. Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is based on acceptances of oneself, identifying irrational beliefs, actively challenging these beliefs, and modifying your thinking pattern.
  4. Multimodal therapy is intended to optimize the treatment of psychological issues by incorporating seven different but interconnected modalities: behavior, affect, cognition, imagery, sensation, interpersonal factors, as well as drug/biological considerations.

Popular CBT Techniques:

Your therapist will help you open up and talk about what’s troubling you during your CBT sessions. Even if you are not initially comfortable talking about your feelings, your therapist can help you get more comfortable and confident.

CBT is focused on specific issues and is goal-oriented. Your therapist may ask you to perform homework, activities, and practices and apply it in your daily life and situations.

There are several CBT techniques one can use. Your therapist will work with you by implementing various strategies to find those that work best for you. These techniques aim to replace destructive or self-deprecating thoughts and actions with rational and positive ones.

Identifying Troubling Conditions Or Situations Affecting Your Life

These may include issues such as symptoms of mental health disorders, medical conditions, heartbreak, loss, grief, or anger. You and your therapist may need to spend some time understanding the true problem behind your troubles and what your goals are.

Becoming Self-Aware Of Your Thoughts, Emotions, And Beliefs Regarding Your Issues

Once you’ve identified the issues you need to work on, your therapist will encourage you to share your thoughts and opinion about them. This may include observing your interpretation of a situation, self-talk (what you tell yourself about an experience), and your beliefs about yourself, other people, and events. Your therapist may even recommend you to journal your daily thoughts, emotions, and events.

Identify Negative Thinking Patterns

To help you recognize patterns of behavior and thinking that may be contributing to your issues, your therapist may ask you to pay more attention to your emotional, behavioral, and physical responses in various situations and suggest you reinforce positive thoughts instead.

Reshape Negative Or Irrational Thinking

Your therapist will encourage you to self-analyze whether your view on a situation is based on a fact or a misinterpreted assumption of what’s going on. This step can be difficult. You may have long-standing thought processes about your life as well as yourself. Helpful thinking and behavior patterns will eventually become a habit and won’t take as much effort with time and practice.

Getting The Most Out Of CBT

CBT isn’t effective for everyone. However, you can make an effort to get the most out of your therapy sessions and make them a success.

Be Open And Honest

Success in therapy completely depends on your willingness to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences and being open to new insights, perspectives, and ways of doing things.

Approach Therapy As A Partnership

Therapy is most helpful and effective when you are an active participant. You and your therapist need to comply with one another about the major issues and how you can tackle them. Over time, you can set goals and assess progress together.

Don’t Expect Instant Results

Working through emotional issues can be uncomfortable and painful, requiring genuine commitment and hard work. It’s common to feel worse during the initial phase of therapy as you begin to confront repressed and bothersome emotional conflicts. You may require several sessions of CBT before you begin to see some improvement.

Stick To Your Treatment Plan

If you lack motivation, feel down, or are insecure, it may be tempting to skip therapy sessions. But doing so can entirely disrupt your progress. Attend all sessions sincerely.

Do Your Homework Between Sessions

Follow through if your therapist asks you to read, journal, or do other activities outside your therapy sessions. Performing these homework tasks will help you apply and make purpose out of what you have learned in your therapy sessions in real life.

If you feel therapy isn’t helping, talk to your therapist about it. If you feel that you’re not benefiting from CBT even after several sessions, you and your therapist may need to decide to make some changes or try out a different approach.

The Advantages of CBT

CBT is based on the idea that thoughts and feelings play a significant role in behavior. A person who spends a lot of time worrying about plane crashes, runway accidents, and other aviation tragedies, for example, may avoid flying altogether.

The purpose of cognitive behavior therapy is to teach people that, while they may not be able to control every part of their environment, they can influence how they understand and respond to it.

The following benefits are what CBT is famous for:

  • It enables you to adopt healthy thinking habits by recognizing the negative and frequently unrealistic ideas that stifle your emotions and moods.
  • It's a good short-term therapy choice; for example, you can observe results after five to twenty sessions.
  • It is frequently less expensive than other forms of therapy.
  • It has been demonstrated to be useful in the treatment of a wide range of maladaptive behaviors.
  • It's appropriate for those who don't need psychotropic drugs.
  • It has been shown to be successful both online and in person.

Possible Risks associated with CBT

Getting cognitive-behavioral treatment has low risk in general. However, you may experience emotional discomfort at times. This is due to the fact that CBT can lead to the exploration of painful sensations, emotions, and experiences. During a difficult session, you may weep, become agitated, or even furious. You could also be physically exhausted.

Some types of CBT, such as exposure treatment, may require you to face circumstances you'd rather avoid, such as planes if you're afraid of flying. This might cause worry or tension for a short period of time.

Working with a professional therapist, on the other hand, will reduce any hazards. You may use the coping skills you acquire to control and overcome unpleasant thoughts and concerns.

Do a background check of the Therapist before proceeding

The psychotherapist is a generic word that does not indicate a specific professional title or level of education, training, or licensing. Psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, psychiatric nurses, and other licensed mental health practitioners are examples of psychotherapists.

Before picking the Therapist, check their:

Licensing and certification - Check to see if the therapist you've chosen fulfills the state's qualification and licensing criteria for his or her field.

Education background - Depending on their degree and position, trained psychotherapists can have a variety of employment titles. The majority have a master's or doctorate degree in psychology and have had specialized training in psychological therapy. Psychiatrists are medical professionals who specialize in mental health and can both prescribe drugs and conduct psychotherapy.

Specialized knowledge - Inquire about the therapist's competence and experience treating your symptoms or area of concern, such as eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Things To Consider

There are numerous challenges that people often run into during the course of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

CBT Is Very Structured

CBT doesn’t tend to focus on underlying or unconscious resistance to change as much as other practices such as psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It is generally best suited for people who are more comfortable with a focused and structured approach wherein the therapist often takes up an instructional role.

Change Can Be Difficult

Initially, some patients might suggest that while they are able to recognize that certain thoughts are not healthy or rational, simply becoming aware of them does not make it any easier to alter them.

People Must Be Willing To Change

For CBT to be effective and useful, the individual must be willing to spend time and effort analyzing their thoughts and emotions. Such self-analysis and homework activities can be challenging, but it is an excellent way to learn more about how your internal state impacts external behavior.

Progress Is Usually Gradual

In most cases, CBT is a gradual process that helps an individual take progressive steps toward a change. For instance, someone with an eating disorder might start trying not to gag after every time they eat something. The next thing they know, they are eating healthily and getting comfortable in their own skin. Progressively working toward a greater goal makes the process seem less daunting and easier to achieve.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy may not entirely cure your condition or make a stressful situation go away. But it can help you better yourself gradually and give you the power to cope with your situation in a healthier way and feel better about yourself and your life.


What does a cognitive behavioral therapist do?

The fundamental goal of a cognitive-behavioral therapist is to help individuals recognize their beliefs and actions, particularly in connection to their relationships, environment, and lives, so that they may change them for the better.

What are the goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy?

  • Assisting clients in comprehending how skewed perceptions and ideas contribute to negative emotions.
  • Clients are taught particular strategies to detect and challenge skewed thinking, which helps them gain self-control.
  • Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are promoted by teaching clients how to "read" their emotions and discriminate between good and bad emotions.
  • Quick symptom reduction with a focus on assessing the client's present condition and resolving current issues
  • By assisting clients in changing underlying beliefs that are typically at the root of their suffering, new periods of emotional discomfort can be avoided and personal progress can be achieved.

Can you do CBT on yourself?

Self-directed CBT has been shown to be quite effective in several trials. Two evaluations, each with over 30 trials (see sources below), revealed that self-help treatment decreased anxiety and depression considerably, especially when CBT approaches were applied. (Tolin, 2007)

How effective is CBT alone?

After 5–15 modules, CBT alone is 50–75 percent successful in alleviating depression and anxiety. Although medication is helpful on its own, scientists are still learning about the long-term consequences on the brain and body. Combining medication with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective way to help patients overcome mental illness. (Jarry, 2005)

Can you do CBT online?

Hundreds of research have proven that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety and depression. CBT tools offered online are just as successful as in-person sessions, making this a good choice for people who prefer virtual meetings to in-person meetings. (Ekberg, 2006)

Can CBT make anxiety worse?

Some people are concerned that counseling would exacerbate their problems. This can happen from time to time. This is due to the fact that beginning therapy might bring up feelings that you were previously unaware of or had sought to suppress. This is common, but it can be difficult.

How long does it take for CBT to work for anxiety?

A presentation of mild anxiety may only require 6 to 24 sessions of CBT therapy to be properly treated. Some people may require a little more time, such as those who have had symptoms for years before seeking therapy.

When should CBT not be used?

The research authors found in a landmark 2009 review published in the journal Psychological Medicine that: (CBT) is of little utility in treating schizophrenia and has a modest effect on depression. CBT is equally unsuccessful in avoiding relapses in bipolar illness, according to the authors.


The efficacy of CBT is discussed in "The efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses." Cognitive therapy and research (2012) by Hofmann, Stefan G., et al.

The reliability and validity of CBT for anxiety disorders is assessed by Otte and Christian in "Cognitive behavioral therapy in anxiety disorders: current state of the evidence." Dialogues in clinical neuroscience (2011).

Tolin, David F., et al. "A randomized controlled trial of self-directed versus therapist-directed cognitive-behavioral therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder patients with prior medication trials." Behavior therapy 38.2 (2007): 179-191.

Jarry, Josée L., and Karen Ip. "The effectiveness of stand-alone cognitive-behavioural therapy for body image: A meta-analysis." Body image 2.4 (2005): 317-331.

Ekberg, Stuart, et al. "Managing clients’ expectations at the outset of online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for depression." Health Expectations 19.3 (2016): 557-569.

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