What is CBT?
Useful Links
e-mail me

What is CBT?



Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. Cognitive-behavioral therapist teach that when our brains are healthy, it is our thinking that causes us to feel and act the way we do. Therefore, if we are experiencing unwanted feelings and behaviors, it is important to identify the thinking that is causing the feelings / behaviors and to learn how to replace this thinking with thoughts that lead to more desirable reactions.

There are several approaches to cognitive-behavioral therapy, including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Living Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy.

However, most cognitive-behavioral therapies have the following characteristics:

1. CBT is based on the Cognitive Model of Emotional Response.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the scientific fact that our thoughts
cause our feels and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and
events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to
feel / act better even if the situation has not changed.

2. CBT is Briefer and Time-Limited.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered among the "fastest" in terms of
results obtained. The average number of sessions clients receive (across all
types of problems) is only 16. Other forms of therapy, like psychoanalysis,
can take years. What enables CBT to be briefer is its highly instructional
nature and the fact that it makes use of homework assignments.

3. A sound therapeutic relationship is necessary for effective therapy, but
not the focus.
Some forms of therapy assume that the main reason people get better in
therapy is because of the positive relationship between the therapist and
client. Cognitive-behavioral therapists believe it is important to have a good,
trusting relationship, but that is not enough. CBT therapists believe that the
client changes when they learn to think differently; therefore, CBT therapists
focus on teaching rational self-counseling skills.

4. CBT is a collaborative effort between the therapist and the client.
Cognitive-behavioral therapist seek to learn what their clients want out of life
(their goals) and then help their clients achieve those goals. The therapist's
role is to listen, teach, and encourage, while the client's roles is to speak,
learn, and implement what they learn.

5. CBT is based on stoic philosophy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy does not tell people how to feel. However, most
people seeking therapy do not want to feel they way they do. CBT teaches
the benefits of feeling, at worst, calm when confronted with undesirable
situations. It also emphasizes the fact that we have our undesirable situations
whether we are upset about them or not. If we are upset about our problems,
we have two problems -- the problem, and our upset about it. Most sane
people want to have the fewest number of problems possible.

6. CBT uses the Socratic Method.
Cognitive-behavioral therapists want to gain a very good understanding of
their clients concerns. That's why they often ask questions. They also
encourage their clients to ask questions of themselves, like, "How do I
really know that those people are laughing at me?" "Could they be laughing
about something else?"

7. CBT is structured and directive.
Cognitive-behavioral therapists have a specific agenda for each session.
Specific techniques / concepts are taught during each session. CBT
focuses on helping the client achieve the goals they have set. CBT is
directive in that respect. However, CBT therapists do not tell their clients
what to do -- rather, they teach their clients how to do.

8. CBT is based on an educational model.
CBT is based on the scientifically supported assumption that most emotional
and behavioral reactions are learned. Therefore, the goal of therapy is to
help clients unlearn their unwanted reactions and to learn a new way of
reacting. While CBT therapists do not present themselves as "know-it-alls",
the assumption is that if clients knew what the therapist had to teach them,
the clients would not have the emotional / behavioral problems they are

Therefore, CBT has nothing to do with "just talking". People can "just talk"
with anyone.

The educational emphasis of CBT has an additional benefit -- it leads to
long term results. When people understand how and why they are doing
well, they can continue doing what they are doing to make themselves well.

9. CBT theory and techniques rely on the Inductive Method.
A central aspect of Rational thinking is that it is based on fact, not simply
our assumptions made. Often, we upset ourselves about things when, in
fact, the situation isn't like we thought it was. Had we known that, we would
not have wasted our time upsetting ourselves.

Therefore, the inductive method encourages us to look at our thoughts as
being hypotheses that can be questioned and tested. If we find that our
hypotheses are incorrect (because we have new information), then we can
change our thinking to be in line with how the situation really is.

There are over 25 very common mental mistakes that people make that cause
them to not have the facts straight.

10. Homework is a central feature of CBT.
If when you attempted to learn your multiplication tables you spent only one
hour per week studying them, you might still be wondering what 5 X 5
equals. You very likely spent a great deal of time at home studying your
multiplication tables, maybe with flashcards.

The same is the case with psychotherapy. Goal achievement (if obtained)
could take a very long time if all a person were to think about the techniques
and topics taught for only one hour per week. That's why CBT therapists
assign reading assignments and encourage their clients to practice the
techniques learned.
(Information from the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists NACBT)