What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy which focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behavior. It teaches you to enhance your ability to cope with life challenges and to manage your emotions.  It combines cognitive therapy (examining the things you think) and behavior therapy (examining the things you do).

What is the cognitive component of CBT?

Cognitive Therapy (CT) is based on the premise that identifying and changing your thoughts will change your beliefs and behaviors.  Thus, in cognitive therapy you will work to identify the thoughts that are fueling and maintaining your anxiety.  This involves the individual working collaboratively with the therapist to develop skills for testing and modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking and changing unhelpful thoughts to more reassuring thoughts.

What is the behavioral component of CBT?

The behavioral component of CBT is based on the premise that changing your behaviors will change your beliefs and thoughts, rather than changing thought patterns to change your behavior, as in CT. For example, rather than altering your thinking by telling yourself “There’s no danger when I go out on the balcony,” you would change the behavior by actually going out on the balcony and having the experience of being safe.  That experience would, in turn, help you to change your thoughts regarding the danger of heights, and resolve your fear.

Treatment typically combines both the cognitive as well as the behavioral components of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.