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What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in over 2,000 research studies. It is a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy that helps individuals identify goals that are most important to them and overcome obstacles that get in the way. CBT helps people get better and stay better.

CBT is based on the cognitive model: the way that individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself.

One important part of CBT is helping clients figure out what they most want from life and move toward achieving their vision. They learn skills to change thinking and behavior to achieve lasting improvement in mood and functioning and sense of well-being.

CBT uses a variety of cognitive and behavioral techniques, but it isn’t defined by its use of these strategies. We do lots of problem solving and we borrow from many psychotherapeutic modalities, including dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, Gestalt therapy, compassion focused therapy, mindfulness, solution focused therapy, motivational interviewing, positive psychology, interpersonal psychotherapy, and when it comes to personality disorders, psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Illustration of the Cognitive Model
Illustration of the Cognitive Model

Key Terms

Cognitive formulation – the beliefs and behavioral strategies that characterize a specific disorder

Conceptualization – understanding of individual clients and their specific beliefs or patterns of behavior

Cognitive model –the way that individuals perceive a situation is more closely connected to their reaction than the situation itself

Automatic thoughts – an idea that seems to pop up in your mind


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