Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior.
CBT is a psychological intervention that is the most widely used evidence-based practice for improving mental health.
Guided by empirical research, CBT focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful patterns in cognitions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), behaviors, and emotional regulation. It was originally designed to treat depression, and is now used for a number of mental health conditions.
The CBT model is based on a combination of the basic principles from behavioral and cognitive psychology. It is different from historical approaches to psychotherapy, such as the psychoanalytic approach where the therapist looks for the unconscious meaning behind behaviors and then formulates a diagnosis.
Instead, CBT is "problem-focused" and "action-oriented", meaning it is used to treat specific problems related to a diagnosed mental disorder and the therapist's role is to assist the client in finding and practicing effective strategies to address the identified goals and decrease symptoms of the disorder.
CBT is based on the belief that thought distortions and maladaptive behaviors play a role in the development and maintenance of psychological disorders, and that symptoms and associated distress can be reduced by teaching new information-processing skills and coping mechanisms.
Mainstream cognitive behavioral therapy assumes that changing maladaptive thinking leads to change in behavior and affect, but recent variants emphasize changes in one's relationship to maladaptive thinking rather than changes in thinking itself.
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is not to diagnose a person with a particular disease, but to look at the person as a whole and decide what needs to be fixed. The basic steps in a cognitive-behavioral assessment include:
Step 1: Identify critical behaviors
Step 2: Determine whether critical behaviors are excesses or deficits
Step 3: Evaluate critical behaviors for frequency, duration, or intensity (obtain a baseline)
Step 4: If excess, attempt to decrease frequency, duration, or intensity of behaviors; if deficits, attempt to increase behaviors.