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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – What It is and How It Works?


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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular types of psychotherapeutic treatment. It is designed to help patients get a clear understanding of the thoughts and feelings that influence their behaviours.


CBT is mostly used for the treatment of a wide range of disorders, especially phobias, depression, addictions, and anxiety.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is normally a short-term treatment plan and focuses on helping clients cope with a very particular problem.

During the course of CBT, patients learn how to identify and change thought patterns that are destructive or disturbing and have a negative influence on their behaviour and emotions.

Basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The basic concept behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is that thoughts and feelings of humans play a fundamental role in how we behave.

For instance, a person who spends a lot of time imagining falling from a high place, tall buildings crashing down, and getting stuck in an elevator may find himself avoiding tall buildings, elevators, and anything that involves height.

The purpose of cognitive behaviour therapy is to teach people that even though they cannot control all aspect of life around them, their interpretation of their environment, and how they deal with it is in their hands to control.

Cognitive behaviour therapy has gained increased popularity in recent years with both treatment professionals and mental health consumers.

Because CBT is almost always a short-term treatment option, it is usually more affordable than most other types of therapy for mental health conditions and phobias.

CBT is empirically supported as well and has been found to effectively assist patients to overcome a broad variety of maladaptive behaviours.


Automatic Negative Thoughts

One of the primary focuses of cognitive behavioural therapy is to help patients change the automatic negative thoughts that they feel as these thoughts add to and exacerbate depression, emotional difficulties, and anxiety.

These negative are almost unpredictable, so they spring forward spontaneously and are accepted as genuine by the patient. Automatic negative thoughts tend to influence a person’s mood negatively.

Through the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy process, people get to examine these unhealthy thoughts and get encouragement to look at evidence from real life that either refutes or supports these thoughts.

By doing this critical examination, people can take a more realistic and objective look at the thoughts that add to the depression and anxiety they feel.

Once they become aware of the negative and mostly unrealistic thoughts that run through their heads and dampen their moods and feelings, people can begin to engage in thinking patterns that are healthier and more realistic.

Types of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

According to the definition of CBT provided by the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, the best way to understand Cognitive and behavioural psychotherapies is to see them

as a range of therapies that are based on principles and concepts derived from psychological models of human behaviour and emotion. These behaviours include a broad range of treatment methods for emotional disorders, in addition to a continuum from self-help materials to structured individual psychotherapy.

There are several specific types of therapeutic approaches that have to do with CBT and are regularly used for the treatment of mental health conditions and phobias by mental health professionals. Some of these include:

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

This is a type of CBT that is centred on identifying irrational beliefs and altering them. The REBT process involves pinpointing the underlying irrational beliefs and actively challenging them. Once that step is done, the final step involves learning to spot and change such thought patterns.

Cognitive Therapy

This type of therapy is focused on spotting and changing thinking patterns that are distorted or inaccurate, behaviours, and emotional responses.


Multimodal Therapy

This type of CBT involves the treatment of psychological issues by addressing seven different but linked modalities, which are behaviour, imagery, affect, sensation, interpersonal factors, cognition, and drug/biological considerations.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

This is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that addresses behaviours and thinking patterns, and incorporates strategies like emotional mindfulness and regulation.

While individual types of cognitive behavioural therapy have a unique approach to offers, each of the centres a common goal of addressing the root thought patterns that trigger or adds to psychological distress.

The Components of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

People often have to deal with feelings or thoughts that reinforce or worsen faulty beliefs. Beliefs of such can lead to problematic behaviours that will affect numerous areas of life, such as family, work, romantic relationships, and academics.

For instance, a person who has low self-esteem issues might deal with some negative thoughts about his or her own appearance or abilities. Because of these negative thought patterns, the person might begin to avoid social situations or let go of opportunities for advancement at career-wise or at school.

To tackle these destructive behaviours and thoughts, a cognitive behavioural therapist starts by helping a client identify the beliefs that are unhealthy and problematic to them. This stage is the first stage and is known as the stage of functional analysis.

This is a crucial stage for learning how feelings, thoughts, and situations may add to maladaptive behaviours. The process can be a difficult one, especially for those patients who have a problem with introspection.

However, but can ultimately help to achieve self-discovery and useful insights that are a crucial part of the healing process.

The second phase of cognitive behaviour therapy deals specifically with the real behaviours that contribute to the problem. There, the client starts to learn and practice new techniques that can further be put into good use in real-life situations.

For instance, a person who suffers from drug or alcohol addiction might begin to practise new coping skills and practice easy ways to stay away from or deal with social situations that will likely trigger a relapse.


In a lot of cases, cognitive behavioural therapy is a step-by-step or incremental process that assists a person to take gradual steps towards a change in behaviour. Someone who deals with social anxiety might begin by simply picturing himself in a situation that provokes anxiety.

Next, the client might begin to practice conversations with family members, friends, and acquaintances. When a patient progressively works toward a bigger goal, the process becomes less daunting, and the goals become so much easier to achieve.

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy process

During the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy process, the therapist usually has to take an utterly active role.

CBT is a highly focused and goal-oriented treatment method, and both client and therapist must work together as collaborators toward achieving the goal that has been mutually established.

The therapist must always explain the CBT process in detail to the client, and the client will mostly be given compulsory homework to finish between sessions.

Cognitive behaviour therapy can be used effectively as a short-term form of treatment that is centred on assisting the client deal with a particular problem.

The Uses of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behaviour therapy is commonly used to treat patients suffering from a broad range of mental health disorders such as the following:

Cognitive behavioural therapy has become one of the most researched forms of treatment, partly because it is a form of treatment that is focused on goals that are highly specific and it is relatively easy to measure the outcome.

Compared to the psychoanalytic forms of psychotherapy which promote a more open-ended self-exploration, with cognitive behaviour therapy things are different.

CBT is often best for people who prefer an approach that is more structured and focused in which the therapist will mostly take an instructional role.


However, for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be effective, the patient must be willing and ready to put in the required time and effort to analysing his or her feeling and thoughts.

Such self-analysis and assignment can be somewhat tricky, but it is an effective way to learn more about how our internal states can have an impact on our outward behaviour.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is also perfect for individuals who are in search of a short-term treatment option for particular types of emotional problems that do not necessarily need psychotropic medication.

It is undeniable that CBT is useful and has become a preferred treatment option for professionals who handle clients with specific phobias and other conditions that can benefit from CBT.

One of the most significant benefits of cognitive behaviour therapy is that clients who use it can develop coping skills that will be useful to them and other people both immediately and in later in the future.

Criticisms of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

In the beginning, some patients have suggested that while they are aware that specific thoughts are irrational and unhealthy, merely having someone make them aware of the harmful thoughts does not make it easy to change them.

CBT does not tend to pay attention to potential underlying resistance that is unconscious to transformation as much as several other approaches like psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

It is vital to note that cognitive behavioural therapy does not involve only identifying these negative thought patterns; it also focuses on using a wide variety of strategies to assist clients in overcoming such thoughts.

Procedures may also include making a journal, relaxation techniques, role-playing, and mental distractions.


Cognitive behaviour therapy is known as a valid form of treatment for a wide range of psychological outcome. If you think that you require CBT, talk to your psychologist about it.


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