• AscendPsychology

Basics of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a model of psychotherapy that focuses on how a person’s thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, affect their feelings and behaviour.

The concept was introduced by Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s and originally termed as “cognitive therapy. Beck described it as a psychotherapy that is structured, short-term and focuses on the present. CBT dominates the international guidelines for psychosocial treatments, making it a first-line treatment for many disorders, as noted by the National Institute for Health and American Psychological Association.

It has proven to have a positive impact and help people with disorders like depression, anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and various other health conditions.

So, how does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy work?

According to the cognitive model of CBT, dysfunctional thinking is the common link to all psychological disturbances and it has a significant impact on an individual’s mood and behaviour. But if people can learn to evaluate their thinking in a more realistic and adaptive manner, they can have more positive emotional and behavioural experiences.

Thus, CBT aims to help clients identify how they feel and act when faced with certain situations. It provides them with positive coping strategies and aims to transform ways of thinking and behaving that stand in the way of positive outcomes.

CBT focuses on the here and now, and disputes one’s present thoughts and beliefs. It highlights the need to recognize, challenge, and change how a person views a situation.

CBT is very straightforward, i.e. it aims to identify specific problems and finds solutions to them. Thus, it is very structured.

CBT techniques also encourage individuals to be their own therapist. The therapist may educate the client about their diagnosis and will teach them how to evaluate their thoughts and different strategies to facilitate behavioural change.

A course of CBT includes a series of therapeutic sessions in which the therapist and the client or group of clients meet on a regular basis and collaborate towards identifying goals and possible outcomes. They are also encouraged to take notes and practice the strategies at home, so that even when therapy is terminated, they can still benefit from the CBT interventions by incorporating it into their daily lives.

It is essential that the client be an active participant in order to benefit from the therapy. The therapist and the client work together as a team. CBT aims to make the client independent and responsible, thus promoting self-growth.

The CBT therapist may use a blend of different strategies such as cognitive restructuring, journaling, activity scheduling with the client.

Over the years, many different forms of CBT have emerged. These therapies share many characteristics of CBT, however their conceptualizations may differ. They include:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

  • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

  • Self-Instructional Training

  • Stress-Inoculation Training

In conclusion, CBT and its varied forms can help people with many problems ranging from depression to chronic pain. It helps individuals in becoming more aware about their automatic thoughts and helps individuals dispute between facts and irrational thoughts. It improves the understanding of other people’s actions and motivations, thus facilitating inter-personal as well as intra-personal communication skills.

To gain maximum benefits from the structures of CBT, it is necessary that the individual must be willing to invest time and dedication towards building self-awareness.


  1. How does cognitive behavioral therapy work? (n.d.). Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/296579

  2. David, D., Cristea, I., & Hofmann, S. G. (2018). Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00004

  3. Mueser, K. T., & Glynn, S. M. (2014). Have the potential benefits of CBT for severe mental disorders been undersold?. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA)13(3), 253–256. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20160

  4. Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

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