How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Category: Medical Information

focus is on a therapist using CBT therapy on their client who is blurred out in the background.

Since 2020, Americans seem to be experiencing a substantial increase in mental health issues, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA). The study showed that the largest increases in mental health issues were in depressive disorders (up to 72% in 2021 compared to only 60% in 2020), anxiety disorders (up to 84% in 2021 from 74% in 2020), and trauma-related disorders (up to 62% in 2021 compared to 50% in 2020).

Seeing a therapist can be highly beneficial if you or a loved one is one of the many experiencing increased mental strain. According to the Cleveland Clinic, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most frequently recommended and well-studied forms of psychotherapy available today. Keep reading to learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

What is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)?

According to the Mayo Clinic, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of “talk therapy” conducted by a psychotherapist. During CBT, the psychotherapist works with the patient to teach them tailored exercises on how to avoid incorrect ways of thinking (thinking that isn’t based in reality) and cynical thoughts. The primary goal of CBT is to help patients better handle distressing situations.

Who created cognitive behavioral therapy? 

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Aaron Beck, created CBT in the 1960s. Since then, it has been proven effective in treating a multitude of mental health disorders. It has also proven effective in helping patients get through the difficult parts of life such as adjusting to a new living situation, relationship troubles, and grief.

What principle underlies cognitive behavioral therapy? 

According to the APA, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the principle that most psychological issues stem from unhealthy and unbeneficial ways of thinking and/or behaving. Essentially the principles of CBT can be summed up by the following principles:

  • Psychological issues are generally caused by an unhealthy cycle of unconstructive thoughts.
  • Psychological problems are at least partially caused by learned behaviors that do not solve anything and/or move us forward in our lives.
  • Those suffering from psychological problems can unlearn these unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving by replacing them with coping skills that allow them to live a happier and healthier life.

Examples of cognitive behavioral therapy: 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to help patients handle their own lives by teaching them coping techniques. Treatment will vary slightly depending on the patient’s individual issue(s) — meaning not all techniques will be used for every patient. According to the APA, examples of CBT techniques include:

Individual CBT sessions

Individual sessions are a large part of CBT as this is where patients will work with their therapist to work through the unique problems they’re facing in their lives.

Exposure therapy 

This strategy encourages patients to “expose themselves” to their fears gradually as opposed to finding ways to evade them. For example, if someone is afraid of confrontation, CBT may encourage them to tactfully confront someone who has been bothering them in their life. This technique allows patients to learn that they can conquer their fears and learn ways to deal with unfounded fears instead of constantly avoiding them.


Role-playing can be used to help patients prepare for social interactions that they’re feeling anxious about.

Calming exercises 

CBT for anxiety usually involves teaching patients exercises that help them calm their minds and body during peak stress.

What conditions can be treated with cognitive and behavioral therapy? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can treat diagnosed psychological disorders and be beneficial for everyday emotional turmoil. CBT can treat the following cases of everyday emotional distress:

  • Mental illness symptoms
  • Preventing a relapse of mental illness
  • Emotional management
  • Coping skills for handling stress
  • How to resolve relationship conflicts with better communication skills.
  • Coping with loss and grief (whether it’s death, a lost limb, a lost job, a lost relationship, or adjusting to a medical diagnosis)
  • Facing emotional trauma (generally as a result of abuse or a violent act)
  • Ways to deal with chronic physical symptoms (namely, chronic pain)

CBT has also been shown to be beneficial (often in combination with medication) for the following mental health disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bi-polar disorders
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Sexual disorders

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be the best way to help you or a loved one handle a stressful life situation or a psychological disorder. Life can be difficult for all of us. Everyone can use a little help sometimes. By participating in CBT, you can learn valuable skills to make life a little easier.

If you or a loved one is thinking about trying cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT), consider behavioral therapy at Haven Health.


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