What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? How Does CBT Work?


Psychological treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of problems including anxiety disorders, depression, marriage problems, and severe mental disorders, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse disorders. CBT has been shown to significantly improve functioning and quality of life in numerous studies. The effectiveness of CBT has been demonstrated in many studies as being equal or even greater than that of other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medication. (1)

Research and clinical practice have been used to make major advances in CBT. There is ample evidence to support the effectiveness of CBT, and the methods created have been scientifically proven to work. The way CBT differs from most other psychological treatments is precisely because of this.

CBT Principles:

Several key principles guide CBT, including:

    • In part, psychological problems can be attributed to unhelpful or faulty thinking.
    • Behavioral patterns that are unhelpful contribute to psychological problems.
    • By learning better ways of coping with psychological problems, people suffering from such problems can ease their symptoms and become more effective.

Changing Thinking Patterns:

Treatment for cognitive behavioral therapy is typically aimed at changing thinking patterns. Some strategies may include:

    • Identifying one’s distortions in thinking and evaluating them in light of reality can help one to avoid creating problems.
    • Acquiring a deeper understanding of others’ motivations and behaviors.
    • Dealing with difficult situations by using problem-solving skills.
    • Confidence in one’s abilities is a key component to developing self-confidence.

Behavioral Changing Strategies:

Behavioral changes are also usually part of CBT treatments. Among these strategies are:

    • Rather than avoiding fears, facing them.
    • Practice role play before interacting with others in a potentially problematic way.
    • It is important to learn to relax one’s body and mind.

These strategies are not all used in all CBT. Instead, the patient and psychologist must work together, in a collaborative manner, in order to identify the problem and develop an effective treatment plan.

The focus of CBT is to help the individual become his or her own therapist. While participating in sessions and working on exercises outside of sessions, clients and patients are guided to develop coping skills, thus learning to change their own problematic emotions, thinking, and behaviors.

CBT is based on the idea that thoughts and feelings have a significant influence on behaviors. For instance, someone who spends a lot of time thinking about runway accidents, plane crashes, and other such air disasters may avoid flying as a result.