What is CBT?


Cognitive Behavior Therapy, often referred to as CBT, was created by psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960s. Beck worked to create CBT because he noticed people seemed to have an internal dialogue going on in their minds while meeting with him. He learned that this internal thinking was related to how people felt and behaved.

I am sure, you, like myself and most others, at times (or perhaps even what feels like most of the time) experience this internal dialogue. You might think about how others see you or feel about you. You might question if others are judging you or wonder if they find you undesirable. You likely have thoughts about the world around you, too. To you, the world might seem unsafe, unfair, or overwhelming. Some of these thoughts you have could be responsible for influencing how you act, and therefore contributing to unhelpful feelings of anxiety and worry, fear, or sadness.

What is CBT?

The main idea of CBT is that our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all connected, and they are often influencing each other on an ongoing basis. This is sometimes referred to as the Cognitive Triangle. CBT is an evidenced based form of talk therapy used for a number of mental health concerns, as well as with all ages and groups of people. It is solution focused, often bearing regular client and therapist goal setting and maintenance. Although CBT can be utilized throughout long-term therapy, it is often known for its short-term approach. Sessions are typically more structured than some modalities, and CBT is often added to other therapeutic approaches. It is a collaborative process where client and therapist often work together to set goals and create a treatment plan.

How it Works

The main goal of CBT is to increase your awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about the problems or issues you find yourself struggling with. The beginning step of CBT often involves increasing self-awareness and identifying current thinking patterns. Self-awareness can often be increased by keeping a journal or tracking moods, thoughts, and feelings (Check out our previous blog post “Mental Health at Your Fingertips” for some mood tracking app suggestions).

As a client, you will likely begin treatment by identifying the behaviors you would like to change, and then you and your therapist will work together to identify some of the negative thoughts and feelings that influence these behaviors. Your therapist will likely assist you in working toward a process of relearning and reshaping these unhelpful thinking patterns. You will likely learn and practice skills and techniques to help you with coping, problem solving, and managing your symptoms. When participating in CBT, you will likely be given homework to practice skills outside of session in order to increase goal attainment.

Automatic Thoughts

CBT describes automatic thoughts as thoughts you have that often begin in childhood and follow you throughout your life.

They are thoughts that you are often unaware of that can pop up when experiencing certain events.

For example, when growing up perhaps you were praised when you were successful. Let’s say, when you received good grades, made a goal at a soccer match, or earned an award. Although deep down you may know that this is not the only time you were loved, you may have come to believe you are only loveable and worthwhile when you are successful. Therefore, you may have come to develop an automatic thought that you must always do well in order to be accepted. Similarly, when you are unsuccessful your automatic thought may be that you are unworthy, unlovable, or a failure.

Sometimes these automatic thoughts can help us, and other times they can hinder us. Bringing awareness to them in order to challenge their reality can assist in the healing process.

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are thought patterns that can make you feel negatively toward yourself and often stem from a false reality. A few cognitive distortions include:

  •  Magical Thinking – This is a belief that your thoughts or actions will directly influence a positive or negative outcome.
  • Mind Reading – This is a habit of assuming you know what others are thinking or
  • Magnification – This is the process of removing positive aspects of a situation and only focusing on or magnifying the negative aspects.

Self Schema

Your self schema is based on specific memories related to your upbringing, personal experiences, and core beliefs. It can be described as the essence of who you are. When utilizing CBT, you may address some questions, ideas, and beliefs about how you see yourself. It can be helpful to evaluate your overall schema in order to determine if the views you have of yourself are accurate and based on reality. This schema can positively or negatively impact your view of yourself, how you interact with others, and in the world.


As you learn how to recognize and manage your thoughts through CBT, you may increase your positive feelings and encourage healthy behaviors. Throughout this process, an increase in confidence and self-understanding are may be attained.

Contact us today to learn how our therapists can support you in developing skills to regularly recognize, challenge, and change unrealistic thoughts about yourself, others, and the world around you to encourage overall well-being.


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