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What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a psychotherapy intervention that is typically used in cases of severe depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The primary purpose of CBT is to understand, address, and cope with one’s current mental health issues. According to the American Psychological Association, instead of focusing primarily on past experiences or events, CBT attempts to take a more “in the present” approach, with therapists using the individual’s background as a reference point to current behaviors or patterns.

The concept of CBT began when founder, Aaron Beck, began noticing that his patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD typically verbalized their issues, but had a stream of negative thoughts rather than connecting the “cognitive distortions,” and finding positive solutions. Beck writes that “cognitive therapy seeks to alleviate psychological stresses by correcting faulty conceptions and self-signals. By correcting erroneous beliefs, we can lower excessive reactions” (Suma).

Generally speaking, CBT has individuals focus on setting three main goals:

1. Developing and practicing coping skills.

2. Determining and working toward both short & long-term goals.

3. Creating and strengthening problem-solving skills.

What does the process look like?

Compared to most therapy sessions, CBT is typically a relatively short-term therapy, with the average individual partaking in about 15 sessions (Belsky). Through these series of sessions, individuals are encouraged to learn about their mental health condition and actively begin practicing methods that replace negative behavior with positive patterns. Such practices could include topics such as stress management, coping, or relaxation (Mayo Clinic). Depending on the individual and therapist's agreed-upon approach, CBT techniques can range from modeling to cognitive restructuring. Modeling emphasizes the desired pattern of behavior through role-play, where the therapist demonstrates positive behavior in various staged settings. Another approach, cognitive restructuring, focuses on honing in on an individual’s self-awareness, particularly when it comes to combating negative self-images and creating positive inner thoughts and behaviors (American Psychological Association).

In short, these techniques retrain the brain to consciously replace negative, disruptive thoughts with positive affirmations, slowly helping to resolve mental health problems that the individual faces.

Steps Toward Success with CBT:

  • Approach therapy as a partnership – your therapist is your first stepping stone on your health journey. They are your accountability buddy and support system! Making sure that you find the best partner is crucial.

  • Be open and realistic about your goals – take time to research and learn between sessions. Be honest about your current coping skills and open to understanding how to address areas of improvement.

  • Set goals with the long run in mind – you wouldn’t expect to be in peak fitness after only running a mile. The same goes for your mental health journey. It takes consistency, time, and effort to see self-improvement.

Remember, everyone’s mental health journey is unique. While the core standards for CBT include these elements, it is important to note that some of these therapy approaches will differ depending on the individual and the professional opinion of the therapist.

Have more questions or think this might be the right therapy approach for you?

Some of our clinicians here at Life’s Journey Counseling specialize in CBT. Click the “Meet Us” tab to learn more about our specialties and find the right partner for your journey!



American Psychological Association. (2017). What is cognitive behavioral therapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from

Belsky, G. (2022, May 2). Cognitive behavioral therapy: What is CBT? Understood. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, March 16). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from

Suma, C. (2017). Building competence in cognitive-behavior therapy. Learning Cognitive-Behavior Therapy.

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