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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - Basics, Types, and Uses

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - Basics, Types, and Uses

4 min read


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy or talk therapy that is used in the treatment of various psychological disorders, phobias, addictions, and depression. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ruhi Satija

Published At February 14, 2020
Reviewed AtSeptember 20, 2022

What Is Cognitive Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, otherwise called CBT, is a type of psychotherapy, which a method that uses interactions between the patient and a mental health care provider to change the patient’s behavior. In CBT, the patient has to attend a few numbers of sessions with a mental health provider. This therapy helps the patient become aware of his or her negative thinking, which helps them see challenging situations more clearly and trains them to respond in a more effective way.

CBT is often used alone or in combination with other therapies in various psychiatric or mental disorders. The common mental health disorders that CBT can treat include depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), eating disorder, etc. Apart from mental illness, CBT can also be used to help people manage stressful situations better.

CBT helps people notice a pattern of how their emotions and thoughts affect their actions. On recognizing these patterns, this therapy helps to reframe your thoughts more positively. CBT, unlike other therapies, does not focus a lot on talking about your past and personal experiences.

What Are the Types of Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

There are many types of CBT used by different mental health professionals. The following are the most common types of CBT used:

  1. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) - helps in identifying and altering the patient’s irrational beliefs

  2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy - this type incorporates strategies like emotional regulation and mindfulness by addressing the patient’s thinking patterns and behaviors.

  3. Cognitive Therapy - it identifies and changes inaccurate behavior and thinking patterns.

  4. Multimodal Therapy - this type addresses the seven different modalities to treat a psychological disorder. The seven modalities include behavior, affect, imagery, sensation, cognition, interpersonal factors, and drug considerations.

What Are the Basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The concept or basics of CBT is that people’s thoughts and feelings play a crucial role in their behavior. For example, a person who had a bad experience with a dentist as a child might avoid going to the dentist as an adult thinking it will be painful or worse. The aim of this therapy is to make the patients understand that even if they cannot control every situation around them, but what they can control is the way control they deal with things in stressful situations.

It is becoming increasingly popular nowadays, as it is comparatively cheaper due to the short duration of the treatment. CBT has been shown to be effective in helping patients with a wide variety of mental problems.

What Are the Uses of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly used psychotherapy for a wide range of conditions, as it helps the patient identify and overcome the challenges quickly. As a result, this therapy requires only limited sessions with a mental health provider.

CBT can help you in the following emotional challenges:

  1. In treating and managing mental illnesses.

  2. It helps you manage your emotions.

  3. Teaches you better ways to communicate, thus resolving relationship conflicts.

  4. It helps prevent mental illness from relapsing.

  5. A good option if medicines are not helping with mental illness.

  6. Teaches you to cope with stressful situations in life.

  7. In the case of abuse or violence, this therapy helps in overcoming emotional trauma.

  8. Make peace with a chronic health problem.

  9. It helps in coping with the loss of a loved one or grief.

The following are some mental health disorders that might improve with CBT:

  1. Depression.

  2. Phobias.

  3. Anxiety disorders.

  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  5. Sleep-related problems (insomnia).

  6. Panic disorder.

  7. Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia nervosa, binge eating).

  8. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

  9. Bipolar disorders.

  10. Sexual disorders,

  11. Substance abuse.

  12. Schizophrenia.

CBT can also be used in people with chronic health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and fibromyalgia.

What to Expect During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is either done individually or in a group of people with similar problems. This therapy includes:

  • Understanding your mental health condition.

  • Learning techniques like relaxation and stress management.

First Visit:

On your first visit, the psychological counselor will ask you a lot of questions to gather information about you and to understand what concerns you. You will have to answer about your present and past emotional and physical health. After this, the therapist will decide if you only need CBT or also might need medications.

Make sure you ask all the doubts or questions you have about the treatment plan or diagnosis in this appointment itself. This will help you understand the therapist’s approach if you will be comfortable with this therapy, what the goal of the treatment is, how long the therapy will last, and how many sessions you might need.

During the Therapy:

You will be encouraged to talk about your feelings or thought process that is troubling you. It will take time for you to trust your therapist, so try to ask as many questions as you want to make yourself at ease. Depending on how severe your condition is, the specialist will use a combination of different techniques. You might have to perform some activities, such as reading and apply the things you learned in therapy at home. The following are the steps in CBT:

  1. Identifying the problematic conditions or situations in life - This includes problems such as medical diseases, separation, grief, and a mental health disorder. The therapist will decide what the problem is and what the goal of the treatment will be after talking to you for a while.

  2. Becoming aware of one’s emotions, thoughts, and beliefs about these problems - Once the problems have been identified, you will have to share your thinking and beliefs about that problem.

  3. Identifying negative thinking - You will be asked to pay attention to the emotional responses to different situations, which will help you recognize negative thinking patterns.

  4. Reshaping one’s thinking - After you recognize the negative thinking, the therapist will encourage you to ask practice viewing such a situation in a positive and productive way. This positive thinking has to be practiced which then becomes a habit.

The Outcome of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Cognitive behavioral therapy will help you cope with a stressful situation in a healthy way, which will help you lead a better life. The things to remember are:

  1. CBT will not be effective for everyone.

  2. This therapy needs you to be ab active participant.

  3. It is best to be open and honest.

  4. Be ready to accept new thinking.

  5. Make sure you stick to the treatment plan.

  6. It will take a few sessions to see some changes, so do not expect instant outcomes.

  7. If your therapist does something at home, then do them.

For more information on CBT, consult a psychiatrist online now!

Frequently Asked Questions


How Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Done?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is done by a talk therapist to a single person or to a group of people with the same disorder. The therapist talks to the individual and helps them identify their thoughts and change their way of thinking and behavior.


What Is the Mechanism Behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy works by changing the maladaptive thought patterns, overcoming misinterpretations,creating attentional focus, and developing adaptive positive thinking.


What Are the Three Main Components of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The three main components used in cognitive behavioral therapy are cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on negative thinking and alters them. In behavioral therapy, problematic behaviors are identified and corrected. In mindfulness-based therapy, the individual is motivated to do meditations to bring in focus.


Is Self-Directed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective?

When there is no availability of a therapist, self-directed cognitive behavioral therapy can be done. This is helpful to reduce anxiousness and depression in people with mild to moderate symptoms. Self-directed CBT can also be done to maintain the progression. In people with severe symptoms, self-directed CBT cannot be done.


When Will Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Start Working?

Cognitive behavioral therapy takes around 12 to 20 weeks to start working with 30 to 60 minutes weekly sessions.


What Are the Exercises Used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Exercises involved in cognitive behavioral therapy are engaging in problem-solving activities, restructuring the negative thoughts, breaking up tasks into smaller and manageable tasks, scheduling new activities, and practicing meditation and relaxation.


Is Mindfulness a Step in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Mindfulness-based therapy is a new method in cognitive behavioral therapy. In this technique, meditation is used to improve attention and focus on the task. It also helps in the relaxation of the mind.


How Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Done for Anxiety?

For a person with anxiety, the thoughts that provoke anxiety are identified first. Then the person is trained to challenge the negative thoughts. Finally, after better understanding the negative thoughts, they are replaced with realistic positive thoughts.


Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective, and Does It Really Work?

Studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful and effective in treating mental disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and mild personality disorders. They alter the way of thinking and help to fight negative thoughts.


How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help in Insomnia?

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps in insomnia by identifying the thoughts that affect sleep and steps to promote sleep. Steps involved in this therapy are cognitive restructuring, stimulus control, and sleep restrictions.


What Are the Drawbacks of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The patient’s cooperation is very important to achieve results. Attendending regular sessions by the therapist is difficult. It focuses only on the patient, so familial disturbances cannot be changed, etc. These are the drawbacks of cognitive behavioral therapy.
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Dr. Ruhi Satija
Dr. Ruhi Satija



depressionpsychotherapyrebtpsychiatric illnesscbt
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