What Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Involve?

Medically Reviewed on 3/19/2021
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective psychotherapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective psychotherapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective psychotherapy. It involves various steps that help you overcome or deal with your negative thoughts. It is a common form of therapy used for treating various mental health conditions, especially depression. It typically includes these steps:

  • Identifying the most difficult situations in your life. These are the situations that make you depressed, anxious, or give you negative thoughts that make you lose your focus on your goals. Your doctor or therapist may ask you to write them down on a piece of paper or in a diary.
  • Recognizing the kind of thoughts that come to your mind. Once you think over the situations in your life, your doctor will ask you to pen down your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about them in a journal. Your therapist will then ask you to identify your negative responses to the situations.
  • Reshaping negative thinking. Your therapist will discuss with you how some inaccurate and negative thinking patterns are causing problems in your life. They will ask you to change the way and the attitude that you adopt when you think about those problems. This might be difficult for you. However, once you realize the positive effects of the change that come gradually, it will be easy for you to embrace it.
  • Learning new skills, forming new habits. You can learn new skills to discard old habits by practicing how you will react to real-life situations. For example, if you suffer from alcohol addiction, you may learn coping skills and practice them to deal with the thoughts that propel you toward taking that extra peg. You can form a new habit that can help you replace the bad ones.
  • Problem-solving. You can use problem-solving skills or develop them to cope with difficult situations. Once you identify a stressful problem, you will work on finding all the possible solutions, analyze the strength and weaknesses of each solution, and then identify the most right one.

What are the uses of cognitive-behavioral therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps train the mind to deal with conditions, such as:

How long does it take for cognitive behavioral therapy to work?

Traditional cognitive-behavioral treatment usually requires sessions of 30-60 minutes spanning over 12 to 20 weeks. These are conducted every week. The entire journey will involve various trial and error situations that help you identify the best ways to deal with your problem. The time it takes for the therapy to work depends on the efforts taken by the individuals and on the nature of their problems.

Intensive cognitive behavioral therapy (I-CBT) is an emerging form of cognitive behavioral therapy that has shown to be faster than the traditional version. It employs much longer sessions, sometimes each lasting till 8 hours that are conducted more than once a week or over the weekends.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/19/2021
References
Mayo Clinic. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610

American Psychological Association (APA). What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral

Yong SJ, Marques L. Intensive CBT: How Fast Can I Get Better? Harvard Health Publishing. October 23, 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intensive-cbt-how-fast-can-i-get-better-2018102315110