Blog How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

An outline of a head in someones left hand, missing a jigsaw puzzle piece shape. The jigsaw piece is in the same persons right hand


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a problem-focused/action-orientated style of talk therapy that helps identify and change negative or destructive thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. The method improves emotional regulation and quality of life while providing a scaffolding to build effective coping strategies and healthier patterns of behavior upon.

CBT helps the patient understand that thoughts, feelings, and behavior have a symbiotic relationship with each other and the outcomes in our lives. CBT teaches that the story we tell ourselves dictates how we feel, act, and react in particular situations. That story has short and long-term rewards and consequences that we often fail to understand completely.

“Man is the artificer of his own happiness.” -Henry David Thoreau

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works

There are four types of CBT commonly practiced:

Cognitive Therapy

This form of therapy focuses on changing harmful or inaccurate thinking patterns, behaviors, and responses.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

This is a strategy to deconstruct and challenge irrational belief systems.

Multimodal Therapy

This analyzes seven separate but related modalities such as behavior, sensation, imagery, and cognition.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This incorporates more advanced emotional regulation strategies such as mindfulness and journaling.

In each of these methods, the therapist plays an active role in helping the patient identity learned behaviors and thought patterns that are harmful or unhelpful to living a happier, healthier life. These complex, looping patterns of thoughts and behaviors take place in three different levels of cognition: automatic thoughts, intermediate beliefs, and core beliefs. Recognizing and altering these beliefs and thoughts on each level is critical to short and long-term success of any cognitive behavioral therapy strategy.

In addition to talk therapy, the therapist may employ a number of exercises that can help the patient explore specific issues on a deeper level. Journaling, meditation, nightmare exposure and re-scripting, exposure and response prevention, are all effective techniques used to help the patient gain a better understanding of their inner dialogue.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including, but not limited to:

Bipolar disorder
Eating disorders
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Schizophrenia

CBT can have an immediate impact on one’s quality of life. In a study of 269 meta-analytic reviews, the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy was deemed “highly effective” or “strong” for almost all conditions listed above.

Achieving Better Outcomes Through CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to alter behavior, mood, and improve mental health. It can be difficult to break the chains of learned behavior and negative thoughts, however, it can be done. With the help of a licensed therapist or counselor, a motivated individual can make significant progress in just weeks.

If you or a loved one are interested in learning more about cognitive behavioral therapy, contact us today.