Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the world's most popular and common types of psychological treatment. Combining aspects of cognitive and behavioral theories allows clients to target thought patterns, learn new behaviors, and make changes in their lives. Clients may seek support from a cognitive-behavioral psychologist when managing a mental illness, stress, life transitions, relationships, and other topics.
However, certain therapists might use other forms of cognitive-based therapies, and cognitive-behavioral therapy is only one option. Learning how these forms of treatment function, the types of cognitive therapy, and how to get support can help you find a valuable professional for your needs.
What Is Cognitive Therapy?
Cognitive therapy is a short- or long-term treatment that targets thought patterns, beliefs, and reactions. Those practicing cognitive theory may believe that thoughts and beliefs drive all aspects of human behavior and emotion. Like cognitive therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy showcases how thoughts and beliefs can impact behavior, which is why it is a popular form of therapy for many psychologists.
Cognitive treatment can help clients shift focus, perception, and self-esteem, allowing them to shift their behaviors and reactions to certain situations. Dr. Aaron Beck is known as the father of CBT, and he became widely known for replacing Freudian analysis in the world of therapy and in many international universities.
These therapies can also treat mental illness, including anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders, among others. They do this by focusing on how thoughts might contribute to symptoms. Although thoughts may not be the cause of mental health concerns, they can worsen symptom severity for many. By addressing negative thoughts, cognitive distortions, and irrational beliefs, therapists can help patients decrease maladaptive behaviors and boost overall mental health.
What Various Forms Of Cognitive Therapy Are Available To Clients?
With CBT's popularity, various types of cognitive therapy have arisen, including the following.
Cognitive-Behavioral Play Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral play therapy is a common variant of the therapy that is used when treating children. A cognitive therapist can gain insights into a child's mental health and well-being by watching them play, having conversations about play, and learning about their imagination. Children may feel uncomfortable expressing themselves verbally, and play therapy can allow them to act out or imagine what they feel. The therapist can take note of this information to develop a treatment plan.
This type of cognitive behavioral therapy may involve asking a child to choose toys out of a toy box and telling them to play freely or techniques where a therapist may ask a child to draw a picture or use the toys to communicate specific scenarios. The therapist can start recognizing behavioral patterns and developing techniques to help the child or their family.
Parents may also partake in cognitive play therapy through family sessions. It can be used to teach parents how to communicate with their children by playing with them.
Exposure And Response Prevention (ERP)
Exposure therapy is a cognitive therapy developed to treat phobias, compulsions, and obsessive fears. Those experiencing an intense fear of any type may benefit from this therapy. Cognitive treatment involves changing your cognition to eliminate your fear responses. During exposure therapy, clients are exposed to safe and regulated fearful situations that allow them to learn that they are not in danger.
For example, a client with a fear of needles may start exposure therapy by watching a video of someone getting a shot, then talking about getting a shot, then looking at a needle. At the end of the exposure, after many sessions, they might go to a clinic to get a saline solution through an IV or get a vaccine they've been avoiding while their therapist accompanies them.
Learning how to breathe and relax your mind can be part of exposure therapy. During the exposures, panic may arise. The CBT therapist can help the client take deep breaths, regulate their nervous system, and tolerate fear. Through these exercises, the client may see that their fear is not harming them. Exposure therapy has been found especially effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Exposure therapy or desensitization therapy is often paired with cognitive-behavioral talk therapy, allowing the client to talk about their experiences with their therapist after the exposure.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of behavioral therapy. However, it also includes aspects of cognitive therapy, as it involves techniques such as mindfulness and changing thought processes through cognitive restructuring. Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, involves four models, including:
- Emotional regulation
- Distress tolerance
- Interpersonal effectiveness
These modules help clients experience painful emotions, distressing behavioral patterns, and confusing thoughts. It was developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) but can be effective for many mental health concerns.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
This type of cognitive behavioral therapy was developed by a psychologist named Albert Ellis. This cognitive model focuses on the intersection of cognition, emotions, and behavior. Your therapist during REBT sessions would help facilitate a rational response to negative and unrealistic thoughts by adhering to their three main principles:
- You as a patient are worthy of self-acceptance, no matter what mistakes you make
- Other people are also worthy of acceptance, even if their behavior involves things you don’t like
- Sometimes negative things happen in life, there is no rational reason to believe that life is always a positive experience.
Like other cognitive behavioral therapies, REBT helps an individual recognize automatic negative thoughts, and develop coping skills that combat emotional responses to treat depression and other psychological disorders.
This is not a comprehensive list of cognitive therapies. There are types available such as Beck’s cognitive therapy, commitment therapy, and others. If you are interested in learning more about all of the different forms of CBT, a search on google scholar is a good place to start.
Cognitive Therapy Techniques
A cognitive therapist may use various cognitive therapy techniques during sessions, regardless of the type of therapy they practice, including the following.
The cognitive restructuring technique involves helping clients identify unwanted thought patterns and emotions. Once these have been identified, cognitive clients are prompted to replace those patterns with optimistic thoughts or facts about the situation. For example, the following could be seen as a way to restructure cognitive distortions (unwanted thought patterns):
- Unwanted Thought: "My friends don't like me because they didn't invite me to dinner."
- Cognitive Restructuring: "My friends have told me they like me many times. I'm sad I wasn't invited to dinner, so I'll let them know I want to come next time."
- Unwanted Thought: "I am going to fail my class because I'm not smart."
- Cognitive Restructuring: "I have been struggling with class because math has been difficult for me lately. I think I will get a tutor."
Cognitive restructuring often involves coming up with a solution, validating yourself, and checking the facts of the situation you're confused about.
Approximation is another cognitive therapy technique. Many individuals may procrastinate due to feeling overwhelmed by a specific task. A cognitive therapist can teach clients to make use of approximation to break tasks down into more manageable chunks or to master a similar task before moving on to the task that they are stressed about.
For example, it might seem like reading an entire book is a daunting task. Reading one chapter might feel more manageable. Reading one chapter every few days can feel more manageable than reading all chapters at the last minute before a school book report is due. Approximation teaches clients to change how they approach their fears and challenges.
Mindfulness is a well-known cognitive-behavioral therapy technique. There are also mindful forms of therapy, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment, practicing acceptance, and increasing sensory awareness. These practices are used during and outside of sessions in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. In addition, mindfulness has been proven effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in many.
Is Cognitive Therapy Effective For Anxiety?
Those living with anxiety may benefit from the support of a cognitive-behavioral therapist to manage their symptoms. Anxiety disorders and frequent anxiety can cause emotional distress, cognitive distortions, and difficulty understanding how to move forward. For that reason, CBT has been proven to be one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. One study found that its effectiveness rate was over 95%.
How Do I Find A Cognitive Therapist?
There are many cognitive-behavioral therapists and other types of cognitive therapists in the US, and over 41.7 million US adults see a therapist. You can start your search online by contacting therapists that appear on Google or another search engine. In addition, reaching out to your primary care physician for a referral can be effective.
To set up your first appointment, ask the therapist if you can meet for a consultation to discuss your goals for therapy. You can ask questions during the consultation about the therapist's approach to therapy, how cognitive therapy might help you, and their experience level.
Alternative Counseling Options
For many, cognitive behavioral therapy CBT may be out of reach due to common barriers to in-person therapy, such as financial burden, accessibility challenges, or other reasons. In these cases, CBT and other forms of cognitive therapy can be found online.
For many people, online therapy is convenient, cost-effective, and high-quality. Studies have found that online CBT can be as effective as in-person therapy in treating anxiety, depression, stress, and social anxiety. When you sign up for a platform, you can connect with a therapist licensed and qualified to provide CBT through phone, video, or live chat sessions. Many platforms also offer unlimited messaging with your provider.
If you're ready to get started and want to explore the types of cognitive therapy, consider signing up with a website like BetterHelp, which has a database of over 30,000 trained counselors specializing in various therapy modalities. You can also try a journaling feature, specialty webinars, and worksheets assigned by your therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are a few frequently asked questions about cognitive therapy.
What Are The Three Forms Of Cognitive Therapy In Clinical Psychology?
Three of the most popular forms of cognitive therapy include cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and integrative cognitive therapy. Cognitive processing therapy focuses on an individual's past and how their experiences impact their thoughts and behaviors. CBT focuses on how thoughts control behaviors in general, with a more present-centered focus. An integrative approach combines modalities according to a client's needs.
What Are The Four Different Talk Therapies?
According to studies, there are over 400 therapy modalities licensed mental health professionals can practice. However, four of the most popular include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic counseling, humanistic counseling, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
What Are The Three CBT Waves?
The three primary cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) waves begin with the behavioral counseling wave. This first wave focuses on the relationship between a stimulus and a behavioral reaction. The second wave dives into thought patterns and their relationship to the stimulus and behavioral choices made. The third wave of CBT is mindfulness, which involves present-moment relaxation, regulation, and sensory experience.
What Are The Three Main Goals In Cognitive Therapy?
The goals of cognitive therapy can vary depending on the client. Many clients may come to therapy to relieve symptoms of mental health challenges, acquire new coping skills, and modify underlying structures of thought to prevent a relapse of symptoms. Cognitive therapy often emphasizes problem-solving strategies to help individuals feel in control of their life outcomes.
What Does ABC Stand For In CBT?
In CBT, the ABC acronym stands for the following:
A: Activating events
Activating events are situations that may lead to unwanted thoughts, beliefs, or feelings. Beliefs are ideas that occur following the event, which may be about the individual, others in their life, or the world as a whole. The consequences are the emotion or behavior that follows the belief due to it occurring.
What Are CBT's Key Elements?
The four main elements of CBT are thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and physiology. Under CBT, all categories are interconnected, and actively participating in treatment can aid in unwanted patterns in each area.
How Many Sessions Does CBT Take?
CBT is a shorter-term type of therapy. However, clients can partake in this therapy for months or years if they wish. If you're looking for short-term CBT, let your therapist know when you develop your treatment goals together.
How many types of cognitive therapy are there?
What are the examples of cognitive therapy?
What type of therapy is cognitive therapy?
What is the most common therapy type?
What are the 4 therapeutic modalities?
Who can benefit from cognitive therapy?
What do cognitive therapists focus on?
Who created cognitive therapy?
- Previous Article
- Next Article