What Is Cognitive Psychotherapy?

Updated March 19, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you been looking into different types of psychotherapy to find the one that might work best for you? If so, you may have already heard of cognitive psychotherapy. You may have read about it and are trying to figure out if it's the right therapy for you, or perhaps you're just a little curious. 

There are many reasons to explore this type of therapy, and by learning what it is, how it works, and what it treats, you can better understand if it's for you.

Psychotherapy Can Help You Take Action

What Is Cognitive Psychotherapy?

You might have heard of the term CBT, but what does CBT stand for? CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is another term for cognitive psychotherapy. Cognitive psychotherapy is a short-term method to help those with different problems. The idea behind this therapy is that psychological problems are based partly on unhelpful ways of thinking and learned patterns of unhelpful behavior. Treatment works toward helping people learn better ways of coping with these thoughts and behaviors to relieve their symptoms and function more effectively day to day.

CBT is a practical therapeutic approach that encourages patients to evaluate their behavior patterns and negative thinking. Homework assignments help patients apply learned coping skills in real-world situations, promoting emotional health and independence. This action-oriented therapy is often used to treat anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders, among other mental health disorders. Depending on the severity of the condition, CBT can be completed in a relatively short number of therapy sessions, making it a cost-effective option for those with limited health insurance coverage.

How It Works

CBT is a process that flows through different steps. The first part is the assessment, a self-reporting of various thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and more. It helps the therapist to determine more about relationship problems, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, emotional problems, and a whole lot more, which can all be used throughout treatment and to help with the treatment approach.

Next, your therapist may recommend homework that has nothing to do with your thoughts and feelings, at least not directly. They may ask you to read and look up information about your diagnosis and how it affects you. This is especially important if you're struggling with the diagnosis or are unsure it applies to what you're going through. This reading can give you a better idea of what to expect throughout treatment and beyond.

As you continue through treatment, you may also fill out updated forms. These will help you and your therapist track your progress and better understand areas where you might still struggle. It can help you set goals, recognize different behaviors, and become even more self-aware. This will help you overcome some of the situations you're going through and learn the coping mechanisms that will help.

You will have a plan for your actual treatment as well, which will generally include you talking with your therapist about different situations and problems that you may have. It will also focus on you learning how to help yourself. After all, your therapist won’t be there when difficult situations arise again. You'll need to learn how to cope and react more positively and constructively on your own. Much of your homework will probably focus on this because it will allow you to take action when and how you need to.

Therapy will help you learn what situations cause you to feel upset or cause underlying pain or anxiety. It aims to help you make decisions about those situations in the moment so you can figure out whether your feelings and thoughts are realistic or unrealistic so you learn how to react accordingly. By learning to determine unrealistic reactions, you're better preparing yourself for what you'll do after therapy when you're on your own. It's important to discuss with your therapist how many sessions are needed to achieve your goals, as this can vary based on the severity of the behavioral patterns you’re trying to treat.

What It Treats

So, just what conditions can you treat with this type of therapy? The truth is there are plenty of different conditions that cognitive therapy can help with, including depression, anxiety, anger, panic, eating disorders, substance abuse, and alcohol abuse. Even personality problems, loneliness, marital conflict, and fears can benefit significantly from cognitive therapy.

What may be even more important is that anyone could get this type of therapy. CBT has been adapted for children, teens, and adults, and therapists use it to treat individuals, couples, and families.

Choosing A Therapist

When choosing a therapist, you want to find someone you can feel comfortable with. You will be talking to them about your deepest beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, and you want to ensure that whoever you're talking to will take that very seriously.

Next, you want to make sure you have someone skilled in the specific area that you're dealing with. If you're experiencing depression and anxiety, you don't necessarily want a therapist specializing in marital problems. While they may be an excellent therapist, they don't have the experience you're looking for, making it more difficult for you to overcome the symptoms you're feeling and the situations you experience.

You'll also want someone convenient for you to interact with. That used to mean finding someone close to you. However, with the rise of online therapy, clinical psychology services are now accessible from the comfort of your own home.

Online Therapy

If you’re interested in starting treatment, online therapy has many benefits. You don’t have to worry about being put on a waiting list or commuting to an office. With online therapy, you’re matched with a licensed therapist ready to start working with you. Once you start treatment, you can reach out to your therapist 24/7, and they will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Studies show that online therapy is effective for treating various conditions, with one review showing that it leads to a 50% improvement in symptoms for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder and helps decrease the effects of stress and chronic fatigue. If you’re ready to learn more, reach out to a BetterHelp therapist to get started.

Psychotherapy Can Help You Take Action


Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychological therapy are evidence-based approaches to treating mental illness, negative feelings, and behavioral responses. Exposure therapy is often used to treat conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Talk therapy can help individuals work through relationship conflicts and sexual disorders, while stress management techniques can promote emotional health. If you're interested in accessing online therapy, reach out to learn more about how CBT and other therapeutic approaches can help you manage your mental health.

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