What is CBT?

How is it different?

Belief that maladaptive behaviors are a result of dysfunctional thinking which leads to problems with behaviors and feelings. Contrasted with Freud’s thoughts about unconscious drives.

Not based on interpretations or human drives. Freudian psychodynamic theory.
Problems and solutions are agreed upon by therapist and client.

Who started it?

The beginnings of CBT are found in the Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis

What techniques are used?

Hypothesis testing, muscle relaxation, positive self-talk, tracking of positive behaviors,

Good for what disorders?

Research shows evidence for effectiveness in, depression, anxiety, OCD, phobias, PTSD, eating disorders, substance abuse and thought disorders.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or “CBT” is often cited in news reports and in medical journals. But what is CBT? CBT emerged primarily from the work of Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. These therapists worked to provide a more scientific model of therapy. Therefore CBT makes use of tracking and hypothesis testing. Although it is hard to study the field of psychotherapy, CBT has shown to improve outcomes for clients. Furthermore, CBT follows a more short-term model to therapy.

The basic premise of CBT is that human behavior is influenced by Thoughts, Actions and Feelings. As feelings are difficult to influence CBT therapists focus on tools or strategies that change thoughts and behaviors. Most of these interventions are focused on the present. Many people struggle with distorted or unhelpful thinking styles. By changing these thought patterns people can improve their lives. Some other examples of cognitive behavioral interventions are thought replacement, tracking the positives of the day and progressive relaxation. Consulting with a therapist trained in these approaches to change has proven helpful across a wide variety of problems such as, depression, anxiety, eating disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy engages the client in setting goals and treatment is viewed as a joint project between the client and the therapist.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often mentioned in news reports regarding mental health treatment. Little mention is given to what CBT actually is. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the thoughts and actions of clients. With the assistance of a therapist trained in the use of CBT a client tries to change their relationship with their feelings. This is done through many different techniques that the client and therapist collaborate on. This collaboration is one of the main differences between CBT and more traditional “Freudian” psychotherapy. Furthermore the client is encouraged to test their beliefs about their life and situations.

There are many techniques available to clients and therapist using CBT. Some techniques that CBT therapists suggest are progressive relaxation, Thought Replacement, and communication training. These can assist the client in changing their thought about current problems in their life.
For example a client struggling with anxiety will be taught how to control their breathing and be instructed on how to talk to themselves regarding anxiety differently, “everything is ok, this will pass.”  Other interventions clients and therapists collaborate on are including tracking the positives of the day, and mood tracking to name a few

These techniques have proven helpful in many disorders.  For example CBT has shown to be effective in treating, depression, anxiety. Obsessive compulsive disorder, thought disorders, eating disorders and substance abuse. The wide impact has to do with the role our thinking and actions influence our behaviors in a multitude of areas. I hope this brief explanation of CBT is helpful in understanding the difference between traditions psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Author: Peter Frommeyer, LMSW