Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective collaborative, goal-oriented psychotherapy that focuses on current symptoms, and teaches specific skills and strategies for managing them. This focused therapy was developed in the 1960s by Aaron T. Beck, M.D., the founder of cognitive therapy. During sessions, Dr. Beck observed that his clients seemed to have an internal dialogue going on in their minds, that they were thinking and talking to themselves but sharing very little of their actual thoughts during the sessions. This is when the importance of the connection between thoughts and feelings was first identified. An abundance of research over the past several decades supports the effectiveness of CBT for treating many emotional and behavioral problems.

CBT is essentially a method that teaches techniques to alter unhealthy and often inaccurate thinking patterns, beliefs and attitudes that are tied to bad feelings and maladaptive actions that identifies and helps a person to correct specific errors in what he or she is thinking that produces negative or painful feelings. By focusing on the interaction between a person’s thinking patterns, behaviors, and their emotions, CBT combines cognitive and behavioral strategies into a powerful treatment for anxiety, depression, drug and/or alcohol abuse, and various other behavioral and emotional problems.

For example, behavioral techniques teach ways to break connections between challenging situations (such as public speaking or other feared situations) and unhealthy reactions to them (such as fear and avoidance). Furthermore, behavioral techniques and strategies are employed as needed to enhance the treatment outcome (i.e., anger management, relaxation training, graduated exposure to feared situations, assertiveness training).

CBT often involves “homework” assignments to practice therapy skills learned.

Some types of mental health problems can be most effectively treated with a combination of therapy plus medication. This is an important decision to examine with the help of your therapist.