Cognitive Behavior Therapy - Changing the Way We Think and React

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Cognitive behavior therapy (cognitive therapy, or CBT) is used commonly in psychiatric practice to help individuals change the way they think (called "cognitive restructuring") and behave in certain situations. Cognitive behavior therapy is a widely accepted therapy that can be used to treat any uncomfortable or destructive habit or practice. It is commonly used to treat addictions, eating disorders, mood swings, stress, relationship difficulties, insomnia, anger, and other conditions.

The term "cognitive" refers to cognitions, or thoughts, and how they may be distorted and lead us to develop inaccurate perceptions of what's going on in the world around us. For example, many people experience anger or anxiety for no outwardly apparent reason, due to their own - perhaps distorted - impressions of events. The "behavioral" component of cognitive behavior therapy focuses on our actions and how these are tied to our thoughts. Integrating the two components allows therapists to work toward weakening the connections between faulty "automatic" thoughts and certain behavioral responses.

Cognitive behavior therapy attempts to control erroneous thought patterns that lead to damaging behaviors. One example of such a pattern might be: