What Is A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist? And Should I See One?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 16, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Therapy is shown in various ways across various forms of media. Even if you haven't gone to therapy in the past, you might have seen a depiction in a movie or heard about therapy from a friend. No matter what you've learned about therapy, outside portrayals of sessions can widely differ from real-life experience. In 2021, 41.7 million adults saw a therapist, and one in five adults had a mental illness. Going to therapy is more popular than showcased in many TV shows and films, and you do not have to be diagnosed or struggling with a mental health condition to see a therapist.  

One popular form of modern therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Learning how a cognitive-behavioral therapist might benefit you can help you decide whether to try therapy for your concerns. 

It Is Possible To Stop False Thinking and Reconnect With Others

What Is A CBT Therapist? 

You may have heard of "talk therapy" in conversations regarding therapy. Talk therapy is another term for the type of counseling that involves verbally discussing your symptoms, emotions, and thoughts with a licensed counselor. Often, it's a synonym for cognitive-behavioral therapy, referred to as CBT. Although talk therapy involves talking, many sessions can also involve learning, activities, creating art, or receiving advice. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves a specific structure, and the therapists that practice this structure are called CBT therapists. Through this method, you may develop a treatment plan early in your treatment and work on a specific plan to meet your goals. CBT therapists specifically focus on how thoughts, beliefs, and opinions can impact emotional reactions and behaviors. With this type of therapy, you may learn how to change your decision-making process, take power away from harmful thoughts, and foster healthier relationships. 

What Can Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Treat? 

With CBT, you can address multiple symptoms or conditions at once. You might discuss preventing a relapse of symptoms, learning how to cope with stress, developing communication skills, learning to deal with loss, or overcoming an adverse experience. This therapy often focuses on resolving problems, allowing it to treat various concerns effectively. In addition, you do not need to have a mental illness to see a therapist. 

CBT can be beneficial for addressing mental illness. It may effectively help clients manage symptoms of the following conditions: 

  • Depression

  • Phobias

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Eating disorders

  • OCD

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Schizophrenia

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Sleep disorders

  • Substance use disorders

  • Sexual disorders

CBT focuses on the causes and the root of each symptom and seeks to change how clients think about themselves, others, and their environments. By changing your thought process, you may feel a sense of control and self-compassion. 

How To Find A CBT Therapist 

If you've decided you might benefit from CBT, your next step may be finding a provider. As one of the most popular forms of therapy, many therapists practice CBT. A few standard methods of finding support that you can use include:  

  • Searching online for therapists in your area 

  • Asking your primary care physician for a referral 

  • Asking friends and family for a referral 

  • Going to a local mental health clinic 

  • Calling 211 for resource suggestions 

When searching, ensure the providers you talk to are licensed and have experience with your concerns. Therapy can be a personal experience, so opening up to someone you don't feel comfortable with may not benefit you. You can make a list of potential therapists and make phone calls for short consultations to ask questions while initially searching for a provider. 

Once you've verified your therapist's credentials and decided on a date for an initial meeting, develop a list of questions or concerns you want your therapist to know during your first session. The intake session will often involve the therapist getting to know you and asking you to help them outline your goals for treatment. If you feel uncomfortable, disrespected, judged, or uncertain, you can also try scheduling intakes with other providers to make a choice. 

Talking to a therapist may also help you understand their expectations for your therapy sessions. For example, they can discuss their approach to treatment and the methods they usually utilize. They might mention if they offer homework or workbooks to clients. You can also discuss how CBT works and how long treatment might be. 

It Is Possible To Stop False Thinking and Reconnect With Others

Aspects Of CBT Sessions 

There are four steps in CBT related to identifying and overcoming unwanted thoughts and behaviors. Each step can be as important as the last. By identifying the situation, understanding your thoughts and opinions, identifying unwanted thoughts, and reshaping your method of thinking, you can start to make changes toward your goals. 

Identifying The Situation

At the beginning of your CBT process, your therapist can help you identify the core causes of your intentions to go to therapy. For example, clients might bring up a divorce, anger issues, relationship conflicts, or a mental illness. Identifying what's occurring and what problem you want to tackle first can be valuable. You may struggle to find benefits if you cannot identify the problem. However, your therapist can help you come to a conclusion about this area. 

Understanding Your Thoughts

After identifying your reason for attending therapy, your therapist can help you outline your thoughts surrounding that situation, including any thoughts you might think are unrelated. You can learn all you understand about the situation and gain techniques to interpret it. Your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world around you can be factored into the discussion to help you create a profound understanding of your situation. In this part of therapy, you might be asked to journal to inquire with yourself about your symptoms. Studies have found that expressive writing, like journaling, can improve mental health.

Identifying Unwanted Thoughts

After understanding your situation, thoughts, and beliefs, your therapist can help you determine which thoughts or beliefs are harming you or are unwanted. These thoughts are often referred to as cognitive distortions, and there are various categories and labels for them, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Black-and-white thinking 

  • Labeling 

  • Overgeneralization

  • Filtering

  • "Should" statements

  • Re-attribution 

  • Ignoring the positive  

  • Jumping to conclusions 

By identifying these types of thoughts, you can learn how to change them. In addition, by having labels for your thoughts, you may be able to better see when they occur, allowing you to prompt yourself to challenge them. 

Restructuring Your Thinking 

In the final stage of CBT, you can learn to take unwanted thoughts, beliefs, or ideas and restructure them through your therapist's aid. They might support you in the process by giving you worksheets, workbook recommendations, or roleplay exercises. As you work through the thoughts, you can also understand their connection to your behaviors and past experiences. Your therapist can also help you develop coping skills and plans for your relationships and daily responsibilities. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Options 

There are thousands of CBT providers across the country, and finding one can be a straightforward process for many clients. However, if you're struggling to afford therapy, can't find a therapist in your town, or prefer to stay at home, you can also try online counseling. 

With online CBT, you can attend phone, video, or live chat sessions from home and schedule appointments within your schedule, even if it falls outside of standard business hours. In addition, studies have indicated that online CBT is as effective as in-person methods in treating common mental health conditions like social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depressive disorders. 

If you're interested in finding a therapist within the next few days, you can consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp, which has over 30,000 therapists, with many specializing in the unique methods of CBT. 


CBT therapists are licensed to offer counseling within their state and are trained in the specific format of cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT targets thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to help clients meet their goals in a quick timeframe and with professional techniques. If you're interested in learning more about how CBT works, consider reaching out to a therapist for guidance.

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