What is cognitive behavior therapy?

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is:

  • Evidence-based. Research has shown CBT to be an effective treatment for a variety of mood, anxiety, and other psychological difficulties. Studies comparing CBT and medications indicate CBT can be as effective (and sometimes more effective) than medication. 
  • Goal-oriented. Your therapist will work with you at the beginning of treatment to set clear, measurable goals for the treatment, and to monitor progress toward the goals.
  • Collaborative. You and your therapist will work together as a team to understand what might be causing or maintaining the difficulties you are experiencing and to discuss strategies that might help you address them.
  • Present-focused. Although you and your therapist may want to spend some time arriving at an understanding of how you came to develop the difficulties you seek to treat, the main focus of the therapy sessions will be on understanding the here-and-now factors that cause and maintain the difficulties, and working to help you identify and practice skills and tools to address the difficulties.
  • Active. The therapist serves as teacher and coach, and the patient works outside of therapy sessions to learn and practice the concepts and skills and tools the therapist provides.

CBT is transparent and explicit. You and your therapists will collaboratively discuss the cognitive behavioral understanding of and approach to your difficulties. You should always feel clear about why you are being asked to try different exercises and how the skills you are learning fit with the overall understanding of your problems and goals for therapy. In many ways, you and your therapist will work like scientists - developing hypotheses about your difficulties and conducting experiments to see what can help them improve.