Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: What do I need to know?

Research Based
Medically reviewed by - Dr Lara Mokhtar, MD Written by - Dr. Shilpa R


What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that targets the interplay between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It combines cognitive and behavior therapy and is rooted in the understanding that our beliefs and interpretations of events influence our emotional responses and subsequent actions. This article explores how cognitive behavioral therapy works, who performs it, how it is conducted, its indications, risks, and precautions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that targets the interplay between emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It combines cognitive and behavior therapy and is rooted in the understanding that our beliefs and interpretations of events influence our emotional responses and subsequent actions.

How does it work?

How does cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) work?

  • CBT believes that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected, and modifying one component can influence others.
  • It operates on the premise that individuals can modify their emotions and behaviors more adaptively and constructively by identifying and challenging negative or distorted or negative thoughts.1How doeas it work?| Researched based study from
  • By breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and maladaptive behaviors, individuals can experience a shift in their emotional well-being.
  • CBT also emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and the acquisition of coping skills.
  • By gaining insight into one’s thoughts and emotions, individuals can learn to recognize and manage problematic patterns more effectively.
  • Through consistent practice and application of CBT techniques, individuals can develop long-lasting changes in their thinking and behavior, improving overall functioning and well-being.

Who can perform cognitive behavioral therapy?

CBT can be provided by mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy, such as:

  • Psychologists.
  • Psychiatrists.2How does it work?| Researched based study from
  • Licensed clinical social workers.

These professionals receive specialized training in CBT techniques and approaches, enabling them to implement the therapy effectively.

The Process

How is CBT done?

  • CBT is typically conducted in a structured and goal-oriented manner, usually over several sessions.
  • The CBT procedure may vary according to a person’s problem and require several sittings.
  • Typically, cognitive behavioral therapy lasts 5 to 20 weeks.3The Process| Researched based study from
  • Depending on the needs of the client and the therapist’s experience, CBT can be given in an individual or group setting.

It includes three phases, namely

  • Initial phase
  • Middle phase
  • Final phase

Initial phase

  • Initially, the therapist assists the individual in identifying and clarifying their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with the issue.
  • This process involves self-reflection and may include self-monitoring tools like thought records or mood diaries.

Middle phase

  • Once the problematic patterns are identified, the therapist guides the individual in examining the evidence supporting and challenging these thoughts.
  • The goal of cognitive restructuring is to replace unreasonable or harmful beliefs with sensible and realistic ones.
  • By changing their viewpoint, people can create better-coping mechanisms and lessen emotional distress.
  • CBT frequently combines behavioral strategies in along with cognitive restructuring.
  • This may involve engaging in specific behavioral experiments to test the validity of particular beliefs or engaging in activities that promote desired changes in behavior.

Final phase

  • Includes an emphasis on relapse prevention and a plan for termination.4The process| Researched based study from
  • Furthermore, therapists may introduce relaxation exercises, mindfulness techniques, or problem-solving strategies to enhance overall well-being and equip individuals with effective tools to manage challenges in their daily lives.


Different uses of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

What are the different uses of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ?

Indications for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may include the following:

  • Anxiety Disorders – CBT is widely recommended as a first-line treatment for various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.5Uses| Researched based study from
  • Depression – CBT is considered one of the most effective treatments for depression, particularly mild to moderate depression. It supports the growth of more healthy coping mechanisms while assisting people in recognizing and challenging harmful thought habits.6Uses| Researched based study from
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – specifically trauma-focused CBT is often recommended for individuals with PTSD. It focuses on processing traumatic memories, challenging negative beliefs, and developing skills to manage PTSD symptoms.7Theory| Researched based study from
  • Eating Disorders – For the treatment of eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia, and binge eating disorder, CBT and other specialist therapies are frequently employed. It helps individuals challenge distorted thoughts about body image, food, and weight and develop healthier attitudes and behaviors related to eating.8Uses| Researched based study from
  • Substance Use Disorders – CBT is integral to substance abuse treatment programs. It helps individuals identify triggers, manage cravings, develop relapse prevention strategies, and modify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to substance use.9Uses| Researched based study from
  • Insomnia – The first-line therapy for long term sleeplessness is CBT for insomnia. It focuses on improving sleep hygiene, challenging negative thoughts, and developing relaxation techniques to promote better sleep.10Uses| Researched based study from

CBT may also be helpful to manage various other problems like:

  • Emotional stress
  • Break up or divorce
  • Low self-esteem
  • Long-term pain
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Going through cancer11Uses| Researched based study from


Risks and precautions

Like any therapy, there may be risks and limitations. The following are some possible dangers and factors related to CBT:

  • Emotional discomfort – During CBT, people occasionally feel uncomfortable when confronting and questioning their unfavorable thought patterns and beliefs. Therefore, patients must share discomfort or problems with their therapist to achieve the best results possible.12Precautions| Researched based study from
  • Limited Effectiveness for Some People or Conditions – Although CBT has shown promise for treating various psychological illnesses, it might not work as well for everyone or every disease. Working with a skilled mental health practitioner who can determine whether CBT is appropriate given a person’s particular set of circumstances is essential.
  • Need for Active Participation – Since CBT involves developing and using new skills, questioning thoughts, and making behavioral adjustments, it necessitates the active participation and involvement of the person seeking therapy. Individuals may not experience the anticipated outcomes if they are not dedicated or actively participate in treatment.
  • Time and dedication – Multiple sessions spread over a predetermined time frame are necessary for CBT, which calls for the patient’s and therapist’s effort, commitment, and time. For the best results, it is crucial to be consistent and complete homework assignments and therapy sessions.
  • Open communication – To maintain the patient’s well-being and maximize treatment success, open communication with the therapist is essential throughout the therapeutic process.
  • Potential Pain in Traumatic Events – It can be challenging for those who have experienced trauma to participate in treatment that analyzes traumatic events. While CBT can help treat trauma-related disorders like PTSD, patients must work with a qualified therapist who can foster a secure setting for therapy.
  • Not for Severe Mental Health Conditions – CBT might not be the most effective treatment for severe mental health conditions including bipolar disorder, severe depression, or schizophrenia.5Precautions| Researched based study from These disorders frequently call medication and other therapeutic methods. CBT can be used in addition to other interventions for people with serious mental illnesses as supplemental therapy.

Bottom line

The Bottom Line

CBT aids people in reframing their points of view and creating more effective coping mechanisms. With its broad applicability across various psychological disorders, CBT offers hope and transformation to those seeking relief. However, it’s crucial to consult with a qualified mental health professional who can assess an individual’s specific needs, determine the appropriateness of CBT, and address any potential risks or concerns.

Disclaimer: The user acknowledges that this article's information is being offered for informational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to guarantee that the article is informational and correct. If they have any doubts or questions about their health, we firmly advise our readers to visit a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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