What is CBT?

What is CBT?

What is CBT?


You may have heard different acronyms and words thrown around when hearing conversations about therapy and had no idea what it all meant.  You may or may not have heard of CBT, DBT, psychoanalytical, positive psychology, object relations theory, and many others.  It can all feel confusing and overwhelming, and if you are on the fence about therapy, this may feel like it is just too much.


My hope with this blog article is to clear some of the confusion on CBT specifically (I can talk about the other theories in later blog entries, and also check out my “How to find a therapist” on my blog here.   CBT is short for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is a type of talk therapy that helps people identify and change destructive thoughts and impulses.  CBT takes a synergistic approach of examining thoughts, behaviors and feelings and how all those combined create you and your actions.  A therapist who practices CBT will help their patients identify these thoughts, challenge the thoughts, and replace them with more objective and realistic thoughts (Very Well Mind).  


CBT can be a short term and problem specific therapy, goal-oriented therapy.  On average, it can take around 5-20 weekly sessions to obtain a desired result (Psychology Today).  CBT can be done in an individual or group setting.  Often CBT therapists give their clients homework to help them work on presenting issues/behaviors and to become more aware between sessions.  Homework can be as simple as identifying when one is doing the undesired behavior, to more intensive homework such as spending more time identifying triggers and documenting reactions.  


CBT can be useful for negative self talk, catastrophizing, black and white thinking, over generalization, depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, addiction, and severe mental illness.  For phobias and CBT, people have shown a 80-90% improvement by the 10th session using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Los Angeles). 


Some strategies used in CBT can help change a person’s pattern of thinking and behaviors (American Psychological Association).  This can include:

-        Having someone recognize their pattern of distortion, and with the help of a therapist, reevaluating that distortion and examining it in a different/healthier light.

-       Helping gain an understanding of other individual’s behaviors and motivations.

-       Problem solving 

-       Facing fears instead of avoiding them

-       Role playing regarding people and interactions that give them anxiety or they would otherwise avoid due to discomfort

-       Mind/body connection to help calm and relax the body.


It is important to be aware that CBT works on current here and now reactions and feelings and does not delve into past events.  Regarding the therapeutic relationship, it takes time to feel a connection with your therapist, as with all relationships, so it is important to see your therapist a couple sessions before determining if it is the right fit. Finally, as with therapy, sometimes you will feel worse before you feel better because you are tackling uncomfortable thoughts and emotions head-on.  Be sure to talk with your therapist about any feelings that are coming up and any concerns you might be experiencing. 

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