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  • Writer's pictureNicole Giambrone

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT?

Mental Health Counseling in the New York City Area, CBT, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Mental Health Therapy
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy, or more commonly referred to as ‘talk-therapy.’ Psychotherapy or talk therapy is an umbrella term for a variety of different types of therapeutic modalities, which CBT falls under. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and the reciprocal relationship between the three. Meaning your thoughts impact your behaviors and feelings, your behaviors impact your thoughts and feelings, and your feelings impact your behaviors and thoughts. Therefore working on altering one will result in altering another. CBT’s aim is to help individuals gain insight into their maladaptive thinking patterns and behaviors in order to make actionable changes in their life. CBT has been proven to be effective for treating a variety of different mental health concerns from anxiety and depression to post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, and more.

CBT is a short-term, problem-focused, goal-oriented therapy that requires the individual to

actively practice skills outside of therapy in order to see changes in thinking patterns, behaviors, and reductions in symptoms. Compared to other talk therapies, CBT focused on the present and resolving the issues present that day, and identifying and altering current thoughts and behaviors. If you’re more concerned about your past and the ‘why’ you think and act the way you do CBT may not be the therapy for you. It does consider the past, however, CBT’s primary focus is on the present.

Below are CBT techniques that a trained psychotherapist will work with you on.

Treatment Goals

When you begin CBT the therapist will ask you to identify some areas in your life that you would like to see changes. The aim of these goals are to improve your life in some way. These can be a reduction in symptoms, can be improving your productivity at work or grades in school, can be increasing your social circle, or anything else you wish to see change. However, reaching these goals will only happen if you practice and take action outside the once-weekly 45-minute therapy session. Treatment goals are based on each individual person’s needs at the time and can change and be altered at any time even if you do not reach the goal.

Identifying Negative Thoughts

Identifying how negative thoughts affect your feelings and behaviors can you help you alter

these thoughts with more positive ones to change your feelings and behaviors. For instance, if you’re struggling with social anxiety you may have the thought or something similar to “nobody likes me” as a result, you avoid social situations and isolate yourself from your peers. In order to determine these negative thoughts, the therapist will give you worksheets or activities to practice between sessions to help identify these thinking patterns you may not be fully aware of.

Identifying Schemas or Core-Beliefs

Schemas or core beliefs are these beliefs we have about ourselves that started earlier on in life and affect our feelings about ourselves and our behaviors. For instance, if as a child your

parents always treated you as a child and never gave you autonomy you may believe that

you’re “incompetent” as a result you don’t go for a high-achieving job because you don’t believe you’re capable to achieve your goal or dream.


Self-monitoring is a core concept in CBT. This involves tracking your thoughts feelings and

behaviors in order to identify the patterns in your life that are harmful to you. For instance, if

you’re struggling with an eating disorder, the therapist might ask you to keep track of your

feelings and thoughts that happen before, during, and after the binge-eating episode.

Learning and Utilizing New Coping Skills

During treatment, as you begin to identify maladaptive thinking patterns and destructive

behaviors, the therapist will give you coping skills to practice outside of therapy to reach your treatment goals. Some CBT coping skills include behavioral activation, relaxation exercises, thought-record form, pros and cons, and more. In order for these coping skills to work they require practice in real-life situations. The more you practice these skills the easier it will be to use them and more automatic they will become.

Problem-solving Skills

Altering thinking patterns and behaviors to more positive ones will increase your overall well

being making it easier to face daily challenges and life stressors. CBT has five problem-solving skills. The first is to determine what the problem is. Second is coming up with a list of solutions to solve the problem. Third, determine what the pros and cons are of each solution. Fourth is to choose the solution that you think will be most effective in resolving the problem while taking into consideration the facts and your feelings about the problem. Last, is to put the solution into action and resolve the problem.

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