What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Learn about cognitive behavioral therapy, its techniques, benefits, and what it’s used for in this informative article.

Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Effective?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to help people recognize and understand how their thoughts and emotions impact their actions. Once these mental patterns are identified, people will be able to change their behavior and develop new coping strategies. Research has proven CBT’s usefulness as the most efficient form of psychotherapy, helping treat a wide range of conditions from depression and anxiety to chronic physical illness and substance use disorders. 1

The Development of CBT

This form of psychotherapy evolved from research and empirical data, providing genuine and valuable strategies, techniques, and methods for various treatments. According to many scientific investigations, cognitive behavioral therapy can significantly improve functionality and quality of life. In addition, multiple studies have demonstrated that CBT is as efficient as, if not more successful than, other forms of psychotherapies or psychiatric medications. 2

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy encompasses a broad range of techniques for treating and addressing a client’s negative thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors. These include:

Cognitive Therapy

Medical professionals help clients identify and alter erroneous or distorted thought patterns, feelings, and actions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Emotional control and mindfulness are among the skills that are part of this program, which targets both behaviors and thoughts. A decade’s worth of research has found DBT to be an exceptional form of therapy due to its sustained efficacy with various groups, high treatment retention, affordability, ease in training providers, and transportability. 3

Multimodal Therapy

Multimodal therapy treats psychological disorders by addressing seven separate but interrelated modalities: affect, imagery, behavior, interpersonal factors, sensation, cognition, and biological or drug concerns. This therapy offers a wider range of improved outcomes for larger groups.

Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy (REBT)

REBT requires identifying and actively challenging irrational thoughts and learning to understand and fix these incorrect thinking patterns.

Although each version of CBT has its framework, they all aim to correct the underlying erroneous thinking patterns causing psychological suffering.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Techniques

CBT is more than just a method for figuring out what’s going on in someone’s head. It employs a wide variety of tactics to assist individuals in overcoming negative ideas, including:

Recognizing Negative Thoughts

It’s essential to know how thoughts, feelings, and events can make people act in destructive ways. Unfortunately, it can be hard to spot unhealthy thinking patterns, especially those who have trouble looking inside themselves. Nonetheless, once clients learn to recognize these negative thought patterns and behaviors, it can lead to self-discovery, growth, and awareness.

Practicing New Skills

When learning something new, it is essential to start practicing it as soon as possible to solidify what was learned and use it in the real world. For example, it is key for clients with depression to practice coping mechanisms to prepare for possible encounters that trigger depressive episodes.


Setting goals may be a helpful step in recovering from a mental disorder and facilitate steady changes and improvements. Cognitive therapists will assist with goal-setting techniques during behavioral therapy by teaching clients how to define their objectives and differentiate between long-term and short-term goals. They will also help develop SMART goals and guide people on how to concentrate on the process rather than the final result.


Acquiring problem-solving abilities may assist in identifying and resolving issues that occur from both large and small life pressures. Problem solving also helps reduce the adverse effects of psychologically and physically distressing mental health illness symptoms.

CBT Problem-Solving Steps

There are typically five cognitive behavioral therapy steps during the problem-solving process:
  • Identifying the problem
  • Coming up with a list of probable solutions
  • Assessing each prospective solution’s strengths and flaws
  • Settling on a particular solution to implement
  • Putting the solution into practice


Self-monitoring (or diary work) is essential for any cognitive-based therapy. It entails keeping a record of thoughts, feelings, and actions and communicating that information to a therapist. This technique helps cognitive therapists find the best therapy strategies for each client.

What Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help Treat?

A well-done cognitive-behavioral process can help ease various mental illnesses, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorders

Note that it is not required to have a proper diagnosis or mental condition to utilize cognitive behavioral therapy. 3

CBT Helps Alleviate and Manage What Experiences?

For years, behavioral psychologists have applied CBT in the management of other issues, such as:

  • Relationship difficulties, breakups, or divorces
  • Managing chronic diseases, such as cancer and stroke
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleep disorders and insomnia
  • Stressors in everyday life
  • Chronic pain

Aside from mental health disorders, CBT is greatly known to help reduce the effects of chronic pain. A large study found that participants with chronic pain who received four biweekly CBT sessions over the course of eight weeks were three times more likely to report no pain, twice as likely to report meaningful improvement, and more likely to report improvements in depression symptoms compared to participants who received other forms of treatment. 4

The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive brain therapy aims at changing how clients understand and react to their surroundings. The benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy include:


CBT helps people find valuable social support resources. The CBT process is action-based, so clients know that they can turn to someone for help in the end. It is easier for people to change bad habits when they know someone cares about their rehabilitation and is ready to offer support throughout the recovery journey.

Raises Self-Esteem

Many mental illnesses stem from a lack of self-esteem. Cognitive behavior therapists help clients build self-esteem by teaching them problem-solving skills. As they unearth answers, people acquire confidence in their ability to conquer the future problem effortlessly.

Positivity Creation

Negative thought patterns are prevalent in many mental health issues. Cognitive behavioral techniques encourage the replacement of negative thoughts with positive, realistic ones.


CBT addresses excessive emotional issues and teaches clients to moderate their emotional responses.

Improved Communication

Mental health conditions, such as depression, drug abuse, and social anxiety, can make it difficult to form and maintain relationships. Cognitive behavioral therapy offers effective techniques to communicate without feeling embarrassed or ashamed, even when dealing with worrisome thoughts.

Better Coping

Inability to cope with grief or tragedy might worsen people’s mental or physical state. CBT teaches clients not to suppress feelings, properly cope with symptoms, and manage triggers and negative thoughts.


Relapse is a common occurrence, whether it’s substance abuse or mental illness. The main goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach people effective methods that prevent relapse, including specific techniques on what to do in the event of a relapse or getting close to one.

Things to Consider and Potential Challenges of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Some considerations and complexities associated with CBT will be detailed below.

CBT Is Highly Structured

Cognitive therapy is a more organized and targeted method in which the therapist typically assumes an educational role. It is generally the ideal fit if the client accepts this approach.

Progress Is Slow and Steady

In the beginning, people may feel worried or uncomfortable as they face their emotions and fears. Slowly opening up, learning new coping mechanisms, and experiencing trial and error is a process. Regardless, not seeing immediate results may turn many away from this therapy.

Remember, therapy takes time, as success does not happen overnight. CBT takes time to make an impact, so results will be seen through persistence and continued efforts.

Making a Shift May Be a Struggle

Instead of addressing systemic or family concerns, which frequently have a significant impact on an individual’s overall well-being, cognitive behavioral theory proposes that the emphasis should be on the individual’s capacity to change themselves (i.e., their thinking patterns, emotions, predispositions, behaviors).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

How to Get Started With CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a useful treatment option for various psychological conditions. If you are contemplating cognitive-based therapy, consider the following steps:

Do Your Homework Well!

To find registered behavioral psychologists in your region, speak with your doctor or search the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists (NACBT) registry.

Think About What You Like and Don't Like About a Treatment Program

Get information on a few treatment programs near you and make a pros and cons list. For example, consider if you’ll benefit more from in-person or online treatment.

Talk to Your Insurance Carrier About Benefits

Always check if your health insurance plan covers CBT, which facilities and therapists take your insurance, and how many sessions are included each year.

Expect Your First Appointment to Feel Like Visiting a Doctor

Expect a doctor’s office-like experience when you first arrive. To get started, you’ll need to fill out documentation, such as insurance information and a questionnaire regarding your mental illness symptoms. You’ll also need to agree to a cognitive therapist-client service contract. You’ll almost certainly be required to complete these forms if you opt for online treatment.

Be Ready to Tackle Any Matters That May Arise

Therapy usually requires opening up and discussing personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. For instance, you may be asked about the circumstances that led you to seek help in the first place, what symptoms you’ve been experiencing, your past experiences, your educational level, your profession, your connections, and where you reside.

Get Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Essence Healthcare

Mental health conditions can stem from many different factors, making each case unique. Therefore, a comprehensive and individualized approach to treatment is necessary to ensure a lasting and successful recovery.

At Essence Healthcare, we offer personalized treatment programs that address all aspects of each client’s situation. By utilizing the evidence-based techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, our experienced and highly trained medical professionals are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how to get started.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.