What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short, is a relatively new form of talk therapy that research has shown is one of the most effective treatments for most psychological problems. What sets it apart from more traditional talk therapies is its brief duration and focus on present events. Originally developed by Aaron Beck for treatment of depression in the 1960’s, it has been adapted for numerous psychological problems. 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective in Treating? Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be effective for depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, impulse control, personality disorders, eating disorders, psychotic disorders, and relationship problems. Additionally, there are effective CBT treatments developed for problems like procrastination, assertiveness, and even for managing health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. 

According to the cognitive behavioral model, situations elicit different thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, forming the complex system of what we experience as emotion. Each component of emotion affects the others, causing a kind of chain reaction. For instance, being passed over for a promotion at work may cause you to have the thought “They don’t appreciate me.” This thought then causes physiological changes such as a flushed face and muscle tension. Behaviorally, you may choose to isolate yourself in your office for the rest of the day, making it easier to ruminate about not being appreciated, causing the emotion to intensify. Each component builds on the others. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change up this system, mainly by altering thoughts and behaviors, resulting in a less intense emotional experience. 

Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work? Significant research over the last few decades has consistently found that for most psychological problems, cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be shorter, more effective in reducing symptoms, and with longer-lasting effects than other treatments. Click here for a comparison of cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and other treatments. Different problems require different kinds of interventions. Some common interventions used in CBT are cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and behavioral activation. Click here to learn more about how cognitive behavioral therapy works, and how it might be helpful for you. 


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