What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

CBT (see also Academy of Cognitive Therapy Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies ) is a type of psychological treatment that has proven effective in reducing negative emotional states like depression, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt and the like.   More recently CBT researchers have been exploring the power of this treatment to strengthen positive emotions like happiness and contentment, and to promote positive behavioral changes in people’s lives.  CBT is a time-limited, problem-focused, highly structured treatment, based on the notion that “the way we think determines the way we feel and behave”.  In CBT the therapist and client work together in discovering the distressing thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that are responsible for the individual’s anxiety, depression or other negative emotional states.  In addition the CBT therapist helps the client change maladaptive behaviors like avoidance, procrastination, withdrawal, social isolation, substance misuse, aggression, etc that contribute to depression and anxiety.  In sum CBT assists people in recovering from their anxiety or depression by introducing new strategies that individuals can use to change their negative thinking and maladaptive behaviors.

A course of CBT typically involves 4-20 one hour sessions that occur weekly or biweekly.  The length or number of CBT sessions required to effectively treat anxiety or depression can vary greatly across individuals and depends on many factors such as the duration and severity of the emotional state, the presence of associated problems and difficulties, and comfort with psychological therapy, to name a few.  There are several components to CBT such as (a) assessment, (b) problem identification, (c) goal setting, (d) identification, evaluation and correction of negative thoughts and beliefs, (e) behavior change exercises, and (f) between-session homework assignments.