Cognitive Behavior Therapy Techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques are evidence-based methods to change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and improve overall life satisfaction and functioning. They are informed by the most current psychology research, having repeatedly demonstrated to be among the most effective interventions for mood disorders and psychological issues. The cognitive behavior therapy techniques listed below represent some of the most common procedures in CBT that are designed to improve mood and behavior.

Cognitive Restructuring Techniques: Cognitive restructuring is a cognitive behavior therapy technique aimed at helping people identify thinking patterns responsible for negative moods and ineffective behavior. There are numerous techniques employed during cognitive restructuring. The most common technique is tracking dysfunctional thoughts on a thought record form, and devising healthier, more psychologically flexible patterns of thinking.

Graded Exposure Assignments: Exposure is a cognitive behavior therapy technique that helps people systematically approach what they fear. Generally, fear causes people to avoid situations. Unfortunately, avoidance of feared situations is what maintains feelings of fear and anxiety. Through systematic exposure, people master feared situations one-by-one, and then tackle increasing difficult exposure assignments. Exposure is one of the most effective psychological treatments that exists, having a 90% effectiveness rate with some anxiety disorders.

Activity Scheduling: Activity scheduling is a cognitive behavior therapy technique designed to help people increase behaviors they should be doing more. By identifying and scheduling helpful behaviors, such as meditating, going for a walk, or working on a project, it increases the likelihood of their getting done. This technique is especially helpful for people who do not engage in many rewarding activities due to depression, or people who have difficulty completing tasks due to procrastination

Successive Approximation: This cognitive behavior therapy technique works for people who have difficulty completing a task, either due to lack of familiarity with the task, or because the task feels overwhelming for some reason. The technique works by helping people master an easier task that is similar to the more difficult task. It’s akin to practicing addition and subtraction before learning long division. Once you are practiced at addition and subtraction, long division isn’t as daunting. Likewise, by having rehearsed one behavior, one that is slightly more difficult feels more manageable.

Mindfulness Practice: Mindfulness is a cognitive behavior therapy technique borrowed from Buddhism. The goal of mindfulness is to help people disengage from ruminating or obsessing about negative things and redirect their attention to what is actually happening in the present moment. Mindfulness is the subject of a lot of new research in psychology and represents the cutting edge of psychotherapy practice.

Skills Training: A lot of people’s problems result from not having the appropriate skills to achieve their goals. Skills training is a cognitive behavior therapy technique implemented in remedying such skills deficits. Common areas for skills training include social skills training, communication training, and assertiveness training. Usually skills training takes place through direct instruction, modeling, and role-plays. 

For more in-depth information about each of these cognitive behavior therapy techniques, visit the CBT Exercises page.