Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered to be the gold standard of psychotherapy for a number of reasons. As one of the best treatment options available for various mental health conditions, CBT aims to help you recognize and modify harmful thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Although this technique has been around for some time now, it continues to be a viable and effective option for many who suffer from depression or anxiety.


The cycle of thoughts and behaviors

Here’s a closer look at how thoughts and emotions can influence behavior:


  • Negative or unhelpful thoughts cause emotional distress.
  • The distress you experience as a result of these unhelpful thoughts ultimately leads to unhelpful or harmful behavior.
  • Over time, these thoughts and behaviors become a pattern.

CBT addresses these specific patterns to help you deal with stressors and problematic situations as they arise so you can better manage them now and in the future.


CBT strategies

So, how does one go about reworking these patterns? CBT involves the use of many techniques. Your therapist will work with you to find those that work best for you.

Overall, the goal of these techniques is to replace unhelpful or self-defeating thoughts with more encouraging and realistic ones. Here are some of the most popular strategies used in CBT:

Goal setting. Setting goals is one of the first and most essential steps in CBT. Your therapist will work with you to identify your goal, distinguish between short and long-term goals, set SMART goals, and guide you throughout the process to get to the desired outcome.

Journaling. You may be asked to keep track of any negative thoughts or beliefs that occur between sessions, as well as how you handled them. This is also a great way to practice new skills and address any difficulties you come across. 

Cognitive restructuring. This involves analyzing and modifying any cognitive distortions (also known as thinking errors) that are affecting you— such as black-and-white thinking, jumping to conclusions, or catastrophizing. 

Thought recording. In this technique, you’ll come up with unbiased evidence supporting your negative belief and evidence against it. Then, you’ll use this evidence to develop a more realistic thought.

Practice new skills. Homework is one of the most important aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy because it helps you practice the skills you've learned in session. You may start practicing new coping skills, relaxation techniques, or rehearing new thinking patterns when you're in a stressful situation or faced with a trigger.

Situation exposure. In most cases, CBT is a gradual process that guides you in taking the steps needed for behavior change. For example, if you're afraid of public speaking, you might first practice getting up and talking in front of only one or two people. As time goes on, you might work your way up giving speeches in front of larger crowds.


What can CBT help with?

CBT can be effective as a short-term treatment that teaches people how to modify their thoughts and beliefs. CBT is used in treating a variety of conditions, including

  • Addictions
  • Anger issues
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality disorders
  • Phobias
  • Stress management


Cognitive-behavior therapy can help you view yourself and your issues in a new light, and help you make lasting change. If you feel that you could benefit from CBT, contact a CBT therapist or counselor to see if it’s right for you.