What Does a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist Do?

Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2023
Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Therapists employ various cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment strategies.

A cognitive behavioral therapist supports people to unlearn harmful habits that they have most likely developed throughout their lives. A cognitive behavioral therapist will use several strategies to address psychological difficulties in an active, goal-oriented manner.

Because emotions and thoughts are so strong in humans, a therapist can help people change their depressive or anxious feelings safely and professionally.

  • The cognitive behavioral therapist analyzes how the person’s ideas, emotions, and behaviors are linked and impact one another.
  • This enables the person, with the help, support, and supervision of their therapist, to intervene at various stages in the process and modify troublesome thought patterns and behaviors.

The therapist sets objectives with the person and monitors progress toward certain goals during treatment. The therapist's goal is to assist the person to understand that they can change certain undesirable beliefs and behaviors. The therapist advises people to use what they have learned in real-life situations and concentrate on relevant problems.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a collaborative and structured approach to treating various mental health issues. CBT assists people to develop more adaptive cognitions (or ideas) and actions in their daily lives. CBT lends itself well to scientific investigation, making it one of the most thoroughly investigated and scientifically validated psychotherapeutic treatments.

CBT can be used as a short-term treatment for symptom reduction or a long-term treatment to address underlying beliefs. CBT is intended to concentrate on specific goals and adopt an active approach to achieving them. The overarching objective is to alter habits of thought and behavior that may contribute to the issues or challenges that have led someone to seek therapy.

Because ideas and behaviors directly influence emotions, CBT indirectly affects how a person feels. During therapy, individuals learn how to recognize and modify damaging or distressing thinking patterns that hurt behavior.

The primary principle of CBT is that thoughts and feelings influence behavior. CBT teaches individuals that though they cannot control every part of their environment, they can manage how they understand and react to it.

CBT is widely used to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

There is additional evidence that CBT can help people manage the symptoms of several diseases, including:


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What are the types of CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods can help children, adults, and older persons.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Combines CBT with meditation to promote a nonjudgmental, present-oriented attitude called mindfulness. MBCT can successfully assist you to deal with the following:

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

A type of evidence-based cognitive therapy that uses strategies, such as problem-solving and acceptance. DBT is extremely helpful to deal with strong emotions and treat serious mental health disorders. DBT could be beneficial if a person lacks coping skills and cannot move forward in life for various reasons.

DBT can effectively help those struggling with the following:

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning are widely used in this behaviorally-orientated CBT method. The purpose of ACT is to alter how a person reacts to inner sensations.

People learn to stop rejecting, ignoring, and dealing with their feelings through acceptance and commitment therapy. They may learn to recognize deeper emotions and realize feelings can be appropriate responses to specific situations.

Once people understand this method of thinking, they may begin to accept the difficulties and problems they may face. This acceptance enables individuals to make the required behavioral changes to enhance their lives.

ACT can help people learn to cope with the following:

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)

A form of active treatment that assists individuals to identify irrational beliefs, such as self-defeating sensations and ideas. People may discover how to actively question erroneous beliefs and identify and modify existing mental habits. REBT helps people replace negative ideas with more productive, healthy thoughts.

REBT can effectively treat individuals dealing with the following:

Other common types of CBT

  • Individual CBT
    • It focuses entirely on one person and consists of one therapist who teaches the person the skills necessary to overcome their issues.
    • Effectively treats depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.
  • Group CBT
    • Involves new acquaintances from social groups, who are also getting treated for the same condition. Those in group therapy often have similar behavioral concerns.
    • The group structure allows for the formation of beneficial relationships, as well as the acquisition of skills required to modify behavior. It helps treat depression and drug misuse.
  • CBT with family
    • Research has reported that CBT with family members can treat anxiety problems.
    • CBT teaches family strategies to help care for anxious people, such as psychoeducation, individual therapy, coping skills, and training approaches.
    • The family is intimately involved in the treatment. They learn techniques to help them deal with the person’s behavior at home.
  • CBT with medication
    • Studies suggest that this help treat anxiety symptoms or depression.
  • Trauma-focused CBT
    • Was established to support people who have experienced trauma. It treats post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related diseases.
    • A session targets several issues associated with traumatic experiences, such as behavioral and cognitive disorders and depression or anxiety symptoms.
  • CBT paired with motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
    • MET is an evidence-based therapy that encourages people to improve their behavior from within. When MET is used with group-based CBT, it successfully modifies drug and alcohol abuse behaviors.
    • Employs conversation, coping skills, and motivational interviewing concepts to help the person initiate and follow through on a plan to alter behavior.
    • The therapist will lead the person through their strategy to quit using drugs and continue to inspire and support the person’s progress throughout the sessions.

Because there are several forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, it can be useful for various psychological disorders. Talk to your doctor if CBT can be included in your treatment protocol.

What are the techniques used by cognitive behavioral therapists?

Therapy is personalized to an individual's requirements, but doctors will employ various cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment strategies.

The most prevalent treatment methods include the following:

  • Cognitive restructuring, or reframing: This could be beneficial if a person overgeneralizes, places too much emphasis on minor details, or constantly assumes the worst outcome is unavoidable.
  • Exposure therapy: A phenomenal CBT technique to deal with phobias and fears. It teaches them to face the most difficult things in life for them. It can help people gain confidence and feel less vulnerable in certain situations.
  • Role-playing: Can effectively develop healthy problem-solving skills, confidence, and assertiveness and enhance communication and social skills.
  • Meditation: During meditative practices, a person focuses on inner thoughts, breathing sensations, sounds, and specific areas of the body. People find that practicing tai chi or yoga helps them focus and develop an awareness of their breathing.
  • Journaling:
    • Several writing activities are often used with CBT. Listing negative thoughts and positive affirmations can help grow continuously between therapy sessions.
    • People might track any new thought patterns and behaviors they are learning when they see them happening. This can be an effective way to chart progress along the journey, which can be motivating.

Your mental health is essential and influences many aspects of your life. Taking the first step to care for your mental health could be the most challenging thing, but it is a sign of strength. It is similar to people taking care of their physical health through exercise and nutrition. Do not hesitate to ask for a CBT session if you have underlying behavioral issues.

Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2023
Image Source: iStock image

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY CAREERS. https://careersinpsychology.org/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-careers/

Cognitive behavioral therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279297/

A Therapist's Guide to Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. https://depts.washington.edu/dbpeds/therapists_guide_to_brief_cbtmanual.pdf