What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

There’s no getting around it: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a mouthful. But in the world of psychotherapy, it’s one of the most effective mental health treatments in use today. We’ll walk you through how it works and what a typical session looks like.

How It Works

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (or CBT for short), has been proven to help people with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress (brought on from traumatic events such as accident, domestic violence, combat, etc.), eating disorders, substance abuse, marital or relationship problems, and even some psychologically-based sexual difficulties. For that reason, it’s put to use in clinics throughout the world and has helped millions of people regain control over their lives. CBT has been scientifically studied, modified, and applied across many different situations, and has been proven effective in the vast majority of them. In fact, CBT is consistently as good or even better than medication! The reason CBT is so helpful is because it targets the actual thought and behavior patterns that are negatively affecting your life. CBT operates under three basic ideas: 1. Changing your way of thinking can improve how you perceive the world around you. Sometimes, destructive thoughts can get so deeply ingrained in our worldview that it becomes difficult to recognize them without outside help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is designed to help you recognize those thoughts and learn how to evaluate them logically and realistically. It also teaches you problem-solving skills that you can rely on in times of stress or trouble. In the process, you’ll gain increased confidence in yourself, as well as learn about the motivations and behavior of the people around you. 2. Changing your behavior can make it easier to control destructive thoughts and feelings. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, many times our behavior reinforces the thoughts that trouble us, making them more likely to continue to haunt us. With CBT, you can learn better coping behaviors, such as facing your fears instead of hiding from them and learning how to physically and mentally relax. 3. By learning how to take control of your thoughts and behavior, you can learn positive coping mechanisms and experience a higher quality of life. As you learn how to master yourself, you’ll experience greater control and freedom.

A Typical Session

Almost all CBT sessions take place in an individual format. But other than that, there’s really no such thing as a ‘typical’ CBT session. Every person’s struggle is different. Because of that, CBT is a very collaborative form of therapy, where you and your therapist will work together to create a plan that works for you. Role-playing to help prepare you for stressful conversations, learning relaxation techniques, and other exercises will all potentially be a part of your session. You will also get ‘homework’ to complete in your daily life, which will help you learn how to apply what you’ve learned in a real-world setting. Remembering to do your exercises outside of our office will help you progress faster and see real results, so we highly encourage you to do them! The great thing about CBT is that it’s focused on the here and now. Your therapist will need some information about your past in order to better understand how you developed the thought and behavior patterns that are disturbing your life. However, CBT is mostly centered on moving forward and understanding how to cope in the here and now. Sessions usually last between 30 and 60 minutes, and are complete anywhere from 5 to 20 weekly sessions depending on your needs. To learn more about how to help children cope after trauma, please visit our Play Therapy page.