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Getting to Know Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular type of therapy used in the treatment of multiple mental health disorders. In a CBT session, the patient and therapist work together to uncover patterns of thinking and actions that interfere with the patient’s quality of life. The patient can then learn ways to stop these destructive thoughts and actions.

The History of CBT

CBT was developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s as a response to what he saw as deficits in psychotherapy when it came to treating depression. Dr. Beck noted that depressive patients had a tendency towards automatic thinking that focused on negative traits they had come to believe about themselves. Dr. Beck worked to develop techniques that would help these patients transform this negative thinking into positive thinking.

Many mental health researchers now study the applications of CBT and therapists use this form of psychotherapy in countless offices across the country. CBT has not only transformed therapy, it has also transformed the lives of many patients with mood disorders.

Disorders Treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Originally developed to treat depression, CBT is now used to address a wide range of mood disorders. Psychotherapists adjust the technique depending on the nature of a patient’s mental health problems, incorporating everything from deep breathing to journaling.

The following are some of the mental health disorders that can be addressed with CBT. If you are interested in pursuing CBT for one of these issues, contact us to consult with a mental health professional.

CBT & Depression

Decades after the first applications of CBT to treat depression, CBT continues to help those with this mental health disorder. Analysis of CBT has shown that it can be as effective as antidepressants in ameliorating the symptoms of depression. It can also prevent patients from experiencing relapses. CBT has been demonstrated as effective in treating bipolar disorder, as well.


Not every parent wants to turn to medication when their child receives a diagnosis of ADHD. CBT can serve as a viable alternative. While research is still evolving, CBT is a promising treatment for children and teens with ADHD.

CBT & Anxiety

CBT is also effective in addressing a range of anxiety issues, including panic attacks, GAD, and phobias. Some mental health professionals view CBT as the gold standard, in fact, when it comes to treating anxiety.

CBT for Trauma

Traumatic events can lead to PTSD, mood disorders, or extreme grief in some patients. CBT has been shown to help these patients, as well. CBT helps patients repattern their thinking around traumatic events, and it can be helpful in treating victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Research so far in this field suggests that CBT may be the most effective intervention for patients with disorders related to trauma.

Treating OCD with CBT

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is characterized by fixated and automatic thinking. As such, CBT is a natural fit for treating this disorder. Mental health professionals often combine CBT with exposure therapy to help those with OCD.

CBT & Insomnia

Many people lose countless hours of sleep due to obsessive thinking. For this reason, CBT can be a good option for those dealing with insomnia. While it is not an immediate solution for those with insomnia, it does help patients develop long-term tools to deal with disordered sleep. Sleep aids can help in the short term as patients learn to incorporate CBT techniques into their lives.

Common Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy has evolved to include a number of different techniques. Each technique may be more or less effective with certain disorders and more or less transformative for each patient. The best approach is for patients and therapists to work together to see what techniques provide the most benefits to a situation. The following are just some of the techniques patients may learn in CBT:

Recognizing Distorted Thinking

Patients need to learn to recognize their distorted thinking so that they can address it and neutralize it. Distorted thinking is thinking that serves as an outsized response to an event. For example, a person with distorted thinking might have a brief conflict with a stranger and then think that they are universally disliked by everyone they know. Therapists can help patients identify these thought patterns and develop coping mechanisms.

Being Kind to Yourself

When you begin to recognize negative thinking, you begin practicing better self care. Patients learn to treat themselves as kindly as they would treat a friend or even a stranger.


A good way to combat negative thinking is to write down positive thoughts. Maintaining a journal or daily log of positive self talk and ideas is an effective way to do this.

Exposure Therapy

Patients with anxieties or phobias often benefit from slow and systematic exposure to their triggers. This process shows them that their fears are irrational and not based in reality. This technique requires the careful help and guidance of a mental health professional.

Practicing Gratitude

Just as writing down positive thoughts fights back against negative ones, practicing gratitude helps patients maintain a more positive outlook on the world. Patients can make it a habit to note things that they are grateful for throughout the day or acknowledge positive things every time they enter a new space.