Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: An Explanation
By Cheryl A Burke, Psy.D, LMHC
The practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) consists of a course of interventions that focus on stimulating behavior by identifying and altering specific negative patterns of thinking (Stuart & Jones, 1999). When used to treat depression, CBT assumes that depressed individuals are likely to develop a pattern of thinking that results from previous negative experience, which produces negative and frequently illogical thoughts, resulting in a negative self-image (Stuart & Jones, 1999). In practice, CBT helps to alter an individual’s illogical or distorted cognitive patterns by asking the depressed individual to examine the reality of his/her beliefs that presumably fuel his/her disordered mood (Stuart & Jones, 1999). Once the individual recognizes that some of his/her beliefs are illogical or distorted, and are frequently based on his/her past, rather than the present, the beliefs are altered and replaced with more positive realistic beliefs, thereby influencing the individual’s mood and behavior (Stuart & Jones, 1999).
CBT sessions frequently begin by establishing session goals, with the clinician serving as a team leader or teacher in the journey toward cognitive and behavior change (Stuart & Jones, 1999). CBT requires both the therapist and the client to work together in a team effort to identify the client’s emotions, conscious thoughts and subconscious thoughts as they apply to various situations that continuously present problems for the client. Although external events can be a contributing factor to depression, CBT theory suggests that our negative internal dialog is frequently the cause of depression; in other words- PERSPECTIVE IS POWERFUL- WE THINK FIRST, FEEL SECOND AND RESPOND THIRD.
Although CBT can be a highly effective treatment for depressive and anxiety disorders, it can also be used to improve many other problems or conditions---improve self-esteem, emotional and behavioral control, self understanding, awareness, relationships, reduce anger and eliminate fear. In fact, Dobson, (1989), conducted a research study comparing CBT to drug treatment, and various other therapies- the results suggest that CBT treatment produced a “greater degree of change” (p.415), when compared with any of the other comparison groups (waiting list or no-treatment control, pharmacotherapy, behavior therapy, and other psychotherapies).
Dobson, K.S. (1989). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of cognitive therapy for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 414-419.
Stuart, J., & Jones, E. E. (1999). Psychotherapy process in the National Institute of Mental Health Treatment of depression collaborative research program. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 1, 64-75.
For additional information on the benefits of Cognitive/Behavior therapy please visit the following websites: