Cognitive Behavioral Therapy What You Need to Know


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people learn to identify and change destructive or disruptive thought patterns that negatively affect behavior and emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing automatic negative thoughts that can contribute to and worsen emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These spontaneous negative thoughts have a negative influence on mood. Through CBT, these thoughts are identified, challenged, and replaced with more objective and realistic thoughts. For example, a dangerous thought pattern might be when someone immediately draws negative conclusions from an event, generalizes them, and applies them to similar situations. In psychology, this generalized way of thinking is called “overgeneralization.” Another painful fallacy in reasoning is “catastrophic” – if something disturbing happens, people immediately jump to exaggerated conclusions about the extent of the supposed disaster that awaits them. Such thought patterns can sometimes turn into self-fulfilling prophecies and make life difficult for those involved. Cognitive therapy helps people learn to replace these thought patterns with more realistic and less harmful thoughts. It also helps people think more clearly and have better control over their thoughts.

Why It Was Done

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat a wide range of problems. This is often the preferred type of psychotherapy because it can help you quickly identify and deal with specific challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way. CBT is a useful tool for coping with emotional challenges. For example, it can help you:

  • Manage symptoms of mental illness
  • Prevent a relapse of symptoms of mental illness
  • Treat mental illness when medication is not a good option
  • Learn coping skills stressors
  • Identifying ways to manage emotions
  • Resolving relationship conflicts and learning better ways to communicate
  • Coping with pain or loss
  • Overcoming emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
  • Coping with an illness
  • Managing chronic physical symptoms

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT encompasses a range of techniques and approaches that deal with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These can range from structured psychotherapies to self-help materials. There are several specific types of therapy approaches involving CBT, including:

  • Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and changing inaccurate or distorted thought patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) addresses thoughts and behaviors by incorporating strategies such as emotional regulation and mindfulness.
  • Multimodal therapy suggests that psychological problems should be treated by addressing seven different but interconnected modalities: behavior, affect, sensation, imagination, cognition, interpersonal factors, and pharmacological/biological considerations.
  • Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy (REBT) involves identifying irrational beliefs, actively challenging those beliefs, and ultimately learning to recognize and change those thought patterns.

Although each type of cognitive behavioral therapy takes a different approach, they all work to address the underlying thought patterns that contribute to psychological distress.

CBT Technique

CBT is more than identifying thought patterns; focuses on using a wide range of strategies to help people overcome these thoughts. Techniques can include journaling, role-playing, relaxation techniques, and mental distractions.

Identifying Negative Thoughts

It is important to learn how thoughts, feelings, and situations can contribute to maladaptive behaviors. The process can be difficult, especially for people who struggle with introspection, but it can ultimately lead to self-discovery and ideas that are an essential part of the treatment process.

Putting New Skills Into Practice

It is important to start practicing new skills that can then be used in real life situations. For example, a person with a substance use disorder may begin to practice new coping skills and try ways to avoid or deal with social situations that could potentially trigger a relapse.

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be an important step in recovery from mental illness and help you make changes to improve your health and your life. During CBT, a therapist can help you set goals by teaching you how to identify your goal, distinguish between short- and long-term goals, set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based) and focus on the process as much as the end result.

Problem Solving

Learning problem solving skills can help identify and solve problems that result from life’s stressors, big and small, and reduce the negative impact of psychological and physical illnesses. Troubleshooting in CBT often involves five steps:

  • Identifying a problem
  • Generating a list of possible solutions
  • Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each possible solution
  • Choosing a solution to implement
  • Implementing the solution


Also known as journaling, self-monitoring is an important part of CBT that involves monitoring behaviors, symptoms, or experiences over time and sharing them with the therapist. Self-monitoring can help provide the therapist with the information needed to provide the best treatment. for example, for people with eating disorders, self-monitoring may involve monitoring their eating habits, as well as the thoughts or feelings associated with eating that meal or snack.

Mental Health Disorder

Mental health disorders that may improve with CBT include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Sleep disorders
  • Food Disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sexual Disorders

In some cases, CBT is more effective when associated with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other drugs.


In general, there are few risks in undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy. However sometimes you may feel emotionally uneasy. Indeed, CBT can make you explore painful feelings, emotions, and experiences. You may cry, get angry, or get upset during a busy session. You may also feel physically exhausted. Some forms of CBT, such as exposure therapy, may force you to face situations you’d rather avoid, such as airplanes if you’re afraid to fly. This can lead to temporary stress or anxiety. However, working with an experienced therapist will minimize the risks. The coping skills you learn can help you manage and overcome negative feelings and fears.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The underlying concept of CBT is that thoughts and feelings play a vital role in behavior. For example, a person who spends a lot of time thinking about plane crashes, runway accidents, and other air disasters may avoid air travel as a result. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach people that while they can’t control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment. CBT is often known for the following key benefits:

  • It allows you to engage in healthier thought patterns by becoming aware of the negative and often unrealistic thoughts that dampen your feelings and mood.
  • It is an option for short-term effective treatment; for example, improvements can be seen in 5 to 20 sessions
  • It has been shown to be effective for a wide variety of maladaptive behaviors.
  • It is often more affordable than other types of therapy.
  • Has been shown to be effective both online and face-to-face.
  • Can be used for those who do not require psychotropic medication.

Effectiveness of CBT

CBT emerged in the 1960s and originated in the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck, who noted that certain types of thinking contribute to emotional problems. Beck labeled these “automatic negative thoughts” and developed the process of cognitive therapy. While early behavioral therapies focused almost exclusively on associations, reinforcers, and punishments to modify behavior, the cognitive approach focused on how thoughts and feelings affect behaviors. Today, cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most studied forms of treatment and has been shown to be effective in treating a range of mental disorders including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder., and substance use disorder.

CBT Is the Main Treatment for Eating Disorders

CBT food disorders has been proven useful in insomniac and those with a general medical condition that interferes with sleep, including those afflicted with pain or disorders like depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been scientifically proven to be effective in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents. A 2018 meta-analysis of 41 studies found that CBT helped improve symptoms in people with anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. CBT has a high level of empirical support for the treatment of substance use disorders, helping to improve self-control, avoid triggers, and develop coping mechanisms to daily stressors.

Things to Consider and Note the Potential Challenges of CBT

There are several challenges that people can encounter during cognitive behavioral therapy.

Change Can Be Difficult

At first, some patients suggest that even if they recognize that certain thoughts are not rational or healthy, simply being aware of those thoughts does not make them easier to change.

CBT Is Highly Structured

Cognitive behavioral therapy does not tend to focus on underlying unconscious resistances to change as much as other approaches such as psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It is often best suited to clients who are feel more comfortable with a structured approach and where the therapist often plays a role of instructor.

People Must Be Willing to Change

For cognitive behavioral therapy to be effective, the individual must be ready and willing to take the time and effort to analyze their thoughts and feelings. Such self-analysis and homework can be difficult, but it’s a great way to learn more about how internal states affect external behavior.

Progress Is Often Gradual

In most cases, CBT is a gradual process that helps a person take incremental steps toward behavior change. For example, someone with social anxiety might begin by simply imagining social situations that cause anxiety. Later, he could start practicing conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances. As you work towards a larger goal, the process seems less daunting and the goals easier to achieve.

Changing Distortions and Perceptions of CBT

CBT aims to transform any way of thinking and behaving that gets in the way of positive outcomes. For example, when a person suffers from depression, their perceptions and interpretations are distorted. Distorted view can make someone more likely to:

  • A negative mindset
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Mistakenly viewing situations as catastrophic
  • Seeing things as good or bad with nothing in between

If people learn fearful or negative ways of thinking, they may start to think that way automatically. CBT focuses on challenging these automatic thoughts and confronting reality. Also, if a person can change their way of thinking, their distress decreases and they can function in a way that is more likely to benefit themselves and those around them. As the individual acquires new skills, it becomes easier for him to solve problems constructively. It can reduce stress, help them feel more in control, and reduce the risk of a bad mood.

When Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy an Option?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addictions. It is also an option for treating physical conditions such as chronic pain, tinnitus, and rheumatism. This can help relieve symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy requires patient engagement and initiative. Therapy can only be successful if the patient actively participates in the treatment and works on their issues between sessions. This can be a considerable challenge, especially in serious conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders. Therefore, drugs are sometimes used at the beginning to quickly relieve the worst symptoms so that psychotherapy can be started. The choice of a certain type of psychotherapy also depends on the objectives. If you feel the need to investigate the causes of your problems, cognitive behavioral therapy is probably not the right choice. It is especially useful if you are primarily interested in solving specific problems and are only secondarily interested in “why”.

Could Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Also Have Side Effects?

Side effects deriving from psychotherapy cannot be excluded. Facing your own problems or anxieties directly can be very stressful at first, and relationships can be affected as well. It is essential to speak openly with your therapist in case of difficulties during therapy. Almost no research has been done on the possible side effects of psychotherapy.


CBT is a form of psychotherapy in which a person learns to change their perceptions and outlook on things in their life. This can have a positive effect on behavior and mood. CBT can help people with many problems, from depression to chronic pain. A consultant and a client work together to identify objectives and expected results. The individual must be an active participant to benefit. Anyone considering CBT should find a qualified professional. A doctor may be able to recommend CBT specialists locally.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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