Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

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In psychology there are different types of therapy. However, one of the best known by all is psychoanalysis. Despite this, psychoanalysis is not the most used, at least in countries like Spain. Currently, one of the most applied therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy. In general, it is a therapy with a highly proven efficacy through scientific studies, so it has a solid foundation. Let's go deeper!


  • 1 What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
  • 2 What happens in a CBT session?
  • 3 How does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy work?
  • 4 Why do we think negatively?
  • 5 Learning coping skills
  • 6 Who can benefit from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
  • 7 What are the pros and cons of CBT?

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

The Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Combines Cognitive Therapy and Behavior Therapies. The focus is on thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and actions, and teaches clients how each can have an effect on the other. CBT is useful for treating many disorders, including depression, anxiety and phobias.

The premise behind CBT is that both our thoughts as our behaviors have an effect on ourselves and also on others. Therapy examines learned behaviors and negative thinking patterns to transform them into positive ones.

Unlike other therapies, CBT focuses on the present and looks to the future. Although past events and experiences are considered during therapy, the focus is more on current issues and dilemmas. The therapy is inspired by two different psychological approaches:

  1. Cognitive Approach
  2. Behavior Approach

What happens in a CBT session?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be applied individually or in groups. Whatever format you choose, the relationship you have with the therapist must be collaborative. This means that you will have to actively participate in the therapy and will be able to assess how your sessions progress. Issues such as trust and progress will be treated throughout the process between client and therapist.

The therapy itself tends to last between six weeks and six months, depending on each case. Usually, one session is attended per week, each session lasts between 50 minutes and one hour. At the beginning of his treatment the therapist asks about what has led him to go to therapy. At this point, you will have the opportunity to verbalize what you would like to get from CBT and set some goals.

Your therapist can set certain tasks to perform outside the consultation and then talk about how these types of tasks are working during the weekly session. The idea is that at the end of the treatment cycle the client must feel able to carry out the work only in his normal life.

How does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy work?

The Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy it helps to make sense of what it may feel like an overwhelming problem, so it breaks down into more manageable parts. These smaller parts are thoughts, feelings, actions and even physical sensations. These elements are interconnected and may often result in a trap in a negative spiral of thought and behavior.

For example, if your marriage or relationship has come to an end, you may believe that you have failed and that you are never able to be in a functional relationship. These thoughts can lead you to feel lonely, depressed and with little energy. When you feel this way, stop having the desire to socialize or go out and meet new people. This negative spiral can then be the trap of feeling truly lonely and unhappy.

Instead of accept these negative thinking patterns, the CBT aims to show other ways to react so that it can leave the negative cycles. Instead of thinking that it is a failure when a relationship ends, you can choose to learn from your mistakes and move on, with optimism towards the future. This new way of thinking can then result in you feeling more energetic and social, which helps you meet new people and one day start a new relationship.

This is a simplified example, but it illustrates how easy it is to get caught in negative cycles, and how to change the way you think and behave that can significantly affect you. In CBT, you will learn to recognize your thoughts, behaviors and feelings, while learning in other, potentially more useful ways of thinking and acting.

Why do we think negatively?

Negative thinking patterns often derive from childhood and quickly become an automatic reaction. An example of this happens when the parents didn't show him much affection as a child. This can be associated in adult life with rejection. In adulthood, this can lead to problems when faced with failure, because their automatic reaction to not being successful may be that others will reject it.

CBT would aim to explain why you think this way and help you find new ways of thinking. Through a variety of tasks to be performed, you will be able to face your fears of failure, for example. Try new ways of thinking that can show more useful and productive ways of seeing things and then we must put these thoughts into practice, from this until it becomes a true behavior change.

Learning coping skills

As well as identifying negative thinking patterns, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also teach you the skills you need to help you deal with different problems. The hope is that once you are armed with these coping skills, you will be able to address them in the future when you have finished therapy.

Examples of the types of skills you can learn from adaptation include:

  • If you have a phobia or suffer from anxietyYou can discover through therapy that you avoid situations that can really increase your fears. Facing fears in a gradual and manageable way can help you gain confidence in your ability to overcome your difficulties.
  • If you suffer from depressionYour therapist may ask you to write down your thoughts so you can explore them more realistically. This can help you gain perspective and break the negative cycle.
  • If you find it difficult to relate to othersIt is possible to learn to consider their assumptions about people's motivations, instead of immediately thinking the worst.

Who can benefit from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

This type of therapy is particularly useful for those with specific problems, since it is very practical and focuses on finding solutions. For this reason, therapy works well for those who:

  • They suffer depression and / or anxiety.
  • They have an eating disorder.
  • suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • They have an addiction.
  • They want to change their behavior.
  • They have anger problems.
  • They suffer from insomnia.
  • They have a phobia.
  • suffer from obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCD).

In some cases CBT is used for people with long-term health problems such as chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome. While therapy cannot cure this type of physical ailments, it can help people deal with emotional discomfort due to their condition and thus achieve lower levels of stress.

What are the pros and cons of CBT?

Like all psychological therapies, CBT is suitable for everyone.


  • CBT has proven to be as effective as medications in the treatment of many mental health disorders, including depression.
  • As CBT is very structured, it can be provided in a variety of formats, including group therapy and self-help.
  • The skills learned in CBT can be incorporated into daily life to help cope better with difficulties, even when the therapy is over.
  • CBT may end in a relatively short period of time compared to other therapies.


  • In order to benefit from therapy, it is necessary to fully engage in the process, including tasks.
  • It works best with specific concerns rather than more complex mental health problems.
  • CBT deals with current problems and some critics argue that it does not explore the possible underlying causes of them.

All Psychological Therapies

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