Common Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques And Why They Work

Updated February 18, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

When many people think of therapy, they think of the same thing. They think about a therapist sitting and listening to a patient talk about their past. And that's about where their idea of therapy stops. Many people don't realize that there is a variety of available therapy treatments. A popular form of therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a very effective form of therapy because of the techniques that are used.

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What Is CBT therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is used to treat patients that need help with their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. While many people think of therapy as diving into deep childhood issues and repressed memory, CBT focuses on finding the solutions today instead of staying stuck processing the root cause of where the problems are coming from.

The Mayo Clinic defines it like this, "Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, so that you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively."

CBT works by helping patients to see how their thoughts are impacting their behavior. While our thoughts may be based on our experiences and past, such as our childhood, instead of focusing on just those events, CBT works in helping you find a solution now.

Who Does CBT Work For?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can treat a vast number of mental health challenges. Some of these include anxiety and panic disorders, depression, substance abuse, Borderline Personality Disorder, and eating disorders. Studies have found that the use of CBT in therapy can help patients reduce and eliminate some health conditions that are not always possible from other forms of therapy.

Examples Of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

While the process of CBT will vary based on the therapist and the situations that you are addressing, there is a similar outline involved with each patient.

The first step is to identify the issues that you want to address. This could be dealing with grief from the loss of a loved one, anger after a divorce, anxiety, and depression, or the symptoms from other Mental Health disorders that you have been diagnosed with.

After that, the therapist will ask you questions about these areas and emotions that you have. The questions will help to get you talking and processing what your thoughts are around the topic. This is effective in helping you to identify any wrong or harmful thoughts that you have in your head. This could include talking about your own experiences, relationships that you have with people, or events that you have experienced in your life. Your therapist may also give you homework of journaling each day on your thought life.

Once you've been able to identify your negative and harmful thinking, you will start to see how those thoughts are impacting your emotions and your behavior. This allows you to learn how to reshape and reprogram those thoughts into ones that will be more helpful for your situation and in your life.

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What To Expect From Your First Session

When you meet with your therapist for the first time, they are going to need to take some time to get to know you and your situation. They may ask you about your physical health, and if you have any past experiences or challenges with mental health. The questions that they're asking are to help them identify what form of treatment will be the best for you or if it will be a combination of treatments. This might not all happen in one session.

The more open you are with them from the start, the easier it will be to get the information that they need to start moving forward with your treatment plan. If, after doing your research you know that you would like to try cognitive behavioral therapy, let your therapist know this from the start. If they have any concerns about this, they will be able to address them with you, and you will be able to let them know what your preferences are. If you can't seem to agree with your therapist, you might want to find a different one to work with.

How To Get the Most Out Of CBT

CBT, like all forms of therapy, can be difficult and emotional to work through. You are learning how to think differently about situations that may have been very hurtful in your life. But, if you stick with the plan that your therapist provides you, you can find the relief that you are looking for and experience long-lasting changes. To get the most out of your CBT sessions, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • You have to be willing to be honest. If you can't be honest with yourself and your therapist, then CBT is not going to work for you. It can be difficult to share your thoughts with another person, especially a stranger, but your therapist is trained to help you process negative or harmful thoughts and replace them with ones that are more beneficial to you. If you are unwilling to share your thoughts, they are unable to help you the way that you need.
  • Do the work that they give you. If you want to see results from your CBT session, then you need to do the things that your therapist is telling you to do. If they want you to keep a journal until your next session, they have a reason for doing so. That means you should do everything in your ability to stick to the homework that they give you. It's all in your best interest.
  • Be willing to stick with it. Even though some forms of therapy help you achieve results faster than others, there is no such thing as instant results. Don't quit on the process just because you don't feel like you are "better" after only the first session.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. The best way to get the most out of therapy is for you to be involved in the process the entire time. If you have questions about why your therapist wants you to do something or why you aren't seeing the results that you were expecting, it's okay to talk to your therapist about it. There may be some changes that the therapist can make to your treatment plan to help you achieve the goals that you're working towards.

How To Find A CBT Therapist Near Me

When you are starting therapy, whether it's CBT or another form, it's important that you feel comfortable with a therapist that you're working with. If you are uncomfortable, then you are going to have a difficult time opening up about personal things in your life. This can cause you to have delayed results, or see no improvement at all. If you find that you have a meeting with a therapist and you don't see any results, and they don't seem to be listening to you, don't be afraid to find a new one. The whole purpose of your session is to improve your mental health.

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Try asking friends and family for a personal recommendation for a therapist. You'll be surprised at how many of the people you know that have been to therapy before. It can be helpful to have a personal recommendation for a therapist but remember that this is not a 100% guarantee that they are going to be a good fit for you as well.

You can also try finding a therapist by doing a simple online search. Make sure that you check reviews to avoid wasting your time on any therapist that isn't going to be a good fit. And don't be afraid to ask the therapist for a simple phone call you for scheduling an appointment to come to their office.

Make sure you check the credentials of the therapist that you will be working with. You also want to look for a therapist that is experienced with CBT treatment plans. While all licensed therapist should be familiar with the technique, not all therapist will be experienced using it.

Where To Find CBT Therapists

When looking for a CBT therapist, remember to look both in your local area and online. Some people prefer to sit face-to-face with a therapist throughout their sessions, and others like the anonymity of meeting remotely. There are many options for online therapy, such as text therapy, and communicating with your therapist through email, phone, or video calls.

Regardless of the route that you choose to go, it's important that you make sure your therapist is licensed and experienced. After that, you can choose the person that you're most comfortable with. Remember your therapy sessions are about you and need to be able to work for you and your situation.


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