Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a method of psychotherapy that involves helping people to see how their thoughts and behaviors relate to the way they feel and how this might contribute to the problems they are experiencing. Because each individual is unique, treatment is individualized to each individual's presenting problem. However, in all cases we make use of various CBT treatment strategies (see below) to attempt to help the person resolve their problem and improve their functioning. CBT is goal-oriented, where the therapist and the client work together to develop goals and then develop a step-by-step plan to achieve those goals. While the therapist is responsible for developing and implementing the treatment plan, clients actively participate in treatment both within and between sessions (for example, clients are given task assignments to complete outside of the therapy sessions).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy has two primary components: Cognitive Therapy and Behavior Therapy.
I. COGNITIVE THERAPY
Cognitive Therapy refers to an approach pioneered by Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) and Aaron Beck (Cognitive Therapy) in the 1960s. Cognitive therapy is based upon a theory of emotion known as appraisal theory. Appraisal theory suggests that individuals experience emotional reactions based upon how they appraise, or interpret, situations and events in their lives. Thus, to change chronic negative emotional states such as anxiety or depression, in cognitive therapy, clients learn how to recognize and modify the thinking patterns that are causing and maintaining them. These thinking patterns often become so automatic that they are typically out of our awareness, and thus it takes some work to even identify them. One of the major strategies of cognitive therapy is "logical analysis" wherein clients learn how to analyze these thoughts using principles of logic, and when distortions are identified, replace the negative automatic thoughts with more realistic, less emotionally charged, thoughts. Over time these new thoughts can replace the old ones. For a detailed description of cognitive therapy, appraisal theory, and emotions click here.
II. BEHAVIOR THERAPY
Behavior Therapy focuses on isolating specific behaviors the client wants to change and uses strategies, based upon learning theory, to achieve that goal. Specific techniques are used to control or even eliminate undesired behaviors. Strategies that fall into the category of behavior therapy include: exposure (desensitization) for phobias, assertiveness training, social skills training, behavioral activation to increase positive events in a persons life, relaxation training, sleep hygiene.
III. ADDITIONAL TREATMENT STRATEGIES
While almost everyone receives some combination of cognitive and behavioral treatment strategies, other approaches are incorporated within the treatment plan when appropriate. Since CBT has clearly established its efficacy as a treatment approach for emotional disorders, clinical researchers have been able to develop modifications and additions to traditional CBT in order to make these treatments even more effective. These additional treatment approaches (see below), when appropriate, are typically incorporated within the standard CBT approach.
Schema Focused CBT
Compassion Focused CBT (CFT)
Acceptance/Mindfulness-Based CBT (MBCT)
MAJOR ADVANTAGE OF COGNITIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY: PROVEN EFFECTIVENESS
There are hundreds of research studies demonstrating that Cognitive Therapy is an effective treatment. For many disorders, Cognitive Therapy is a more effective treatment than other forms of psychotherapy and equivalent to medication. In a recent review of Empirically Supported Treatments by the American Psychological Association's Division of Clinical Psychology, Task Force on Psychological Interventions, cognitive behavioral interventions were by far the most common to qualify as empirically supported.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, AND CBT:
National Institute of Health: Anxiety
National Institute of Health: Depression
For more information about Cognitive Therapy and the treatment of specific disorders/problems:
For more information about Anxiety Disorders and Depression: