Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: What You Should Know

Cognitive-Behavioral  Therapy: What You Should Know

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For individuals who are struggling with mental health issues, medication and therapy are the two treatment options most commonly recommended by medical professionals. Patients, however, are often overwhelmed by the numerous drug and therapeutic treatment options that are available to them.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy, often known by the abbreviation CBT, is one particularly effective form of psychotherapy. For patients seeking a structured, goal-oriented path to better mental health, CBT may offer valuable solutions.


What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a therapeutic process used to treat dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Unlike Freudian psychoanalysis or many forms of talk therapy, CBT focuses somewhat less on the discussion of past wounds, instead placing more emphasis on the modification of patients’ cognitive and behavioral patterns. By replacing destructive thoughts and actions with constructive ones, patients’ emotional states ultimately improve.


CBT was developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist Aaron Beck. While treating patients, Beck realized that most individuals carried on extensive internal dialogues with themselves. Beck realized that these inner conversations came to patients automatically. Though many patients didn’t recognize these automatic thoughts at first, they could be taught to become aware of them and acknowledge them. In many cases, these emotionally-charged thoughts were causing negative feelings for patients, worsening their problems. By identifying and modifying these unrealistic and unhelpful thought patterns, however, patients ultimately improved their mental and emotional health. The alteration of negative thought patterns is the foundation of cognitive-behavioral therapy.


In most cases, CBT is a relatively structured form of therapy. Treatment tends to take place during weekly therapy sessions over the course of 6-12 months. A therapist and patient will often plan each therapy session together, tackling a specific issue during each meeting and discussing corresponding “homework” assignments. By addressing patient-specific problems and assisting in the modification of thought patterns, CBT therapists ultimately seek to guide their patients to wellness. 


What Problems Can Be Treated with CBT? 


Cognitive-behavioral therapy has the potential to help many patients. In general, CBT will be most effective for those who desire a goal-oriented therapeutic treatment plan. Patients who have vague complaints or desire a more general form of talk therapy may benefit less from the structure offered by CBT.CBT can be used to treat a variety of mental and physical maladies. Common mental and emotional health problems such as anxiety, depression, addictions, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and mood regulation issues may be improved by cognitive-behavioral therapy. Individuals suffering from PTSD may also benefit from the cognitive restructuring offered by this form of therapy. More general health problems, such as sleeping issues, chronic pain, or chronic fatigue syndrome may also improve as a result of treatment. Patients with psychosomatic ailments may also experience fewer symptoms.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy has the potential to benefit individuals suffering from a variety of health conditions. Talk to a mental health professional or do some research on your own to discover whether or not CBT may be the right treatment option for you.


Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Effective?


When it comes to the treatment of mental health issues, there is no “one-size-fits-all” remedy. Whereas CBT may be highly effective for some patients, it may have little to no benefit for others. For many, combining a form of therapy, such as CBT, with medication may be the most effective form of treatment.


Clinical studies regarding the efficacy of CBT have had varied results. In general, patients who are are committed to the program benefit most from therapeutic treatment. Individuals with particularly serious or chronic mental health issues such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia may not notice as significant a reduction in their symptoms as patients struggling with other conditions.


The only way to know if cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you is to try it. If it’s ineffective, many other therapeutic and medicinal treatment options remain available to you.


How Can I Get Started with CBT?


If you’re interested in cognitive-behavioral therapy, consider looking up CBT tools and techniques online. The practical structure of CBT makes it possible to get started with cognitive restructuring before even meeting with a therapist. Consider familiarizing yourself with the types of cognitive distortions you may be experiencing. By identifying and correcting unhelpful forms of thinking, such as catastrophizing, over-generalizing, blaming, or thinking in terms of “shoulds,” you can begin putting the essential tools of CBT to work on your own.


If you feel that the tools offered by CBT are working well for you, consider seeking out a mental health professional trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy. By working with a trained specialist, you just might notice an improvement in your mental and physical well-being.



Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a practical, structured therapeutic system that has the potential to improve the health of individuals suffering from a variety of mental, emotional, and psychosomatic ailments. When a patient connects with the right therapist and commits to the therapeutic process, the potential to heal is particularly great. As with all forms of therapy, however, effectiveness will vary. If you don’t notice results after trying CBT, don’t lose hope! Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to discuss other forms of treatment that may be more effective for you.



Photo: © Viacheslav Iakobchuk /

Editor, 07/19/2018

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