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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

More about CBT

Cognitive Therapy

CBT is a well-researched set of interventions that can help you change unproductive patterns of thinking and behaving.  As those patterns change in a positive way, it can result in you feeling better, being happier, and getting more of what you want from life.  Most people are not even aware of the impact of how they think or how their habituated patterns of behavior can either help them or hurt them.  CBT can help you to gain greater choice and control en route to transforming the quality of your life.

CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) has two major components.  There is cognitive therapy and there is also behavioral therapy.  Each plays an important therapeutic role.  They can work individually or together to help you along your journey to getting better.  Let’s take a look at each and some of the many ways they can help you.

Cognitive therapy can help us to correct dysfunctional, distorted, mistaken, or negative thinking.  This can lead to feeling emotions that are more pleasant and help us to behave in more adaptive and constructive ways.  

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral Therapy

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.  When dealing with many types of distress, action may also be your antidote.  But there is a difference between random or reactive actions and effective actions that are strategic and therapeutic in nature.  An expert in behavioral therapy can help you to take the right steps that will culminate in relief from an array of distressing issues.  

Cognitive Therapy, Behavioral Therapy or Both

If your thinking brain (cortex) is mainly responsible for your distress, then you will need the help of cognitive therapy.  If your emotional midbrain (limbic system) is at the root of your distress, then some form of behavioral therapy will serve you best.  However, for many people, a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) will be necessary.  An example of this might be when a trauma sufferer is triggered by a visual reminder of their traumatic event.  This can cause their midbrain to activate its alarm system (the part of the brain known as the amygdala) causing anxiety or panic.  In a way, the midbrain sparks the flames of fear.  However, the thinking brain can then come along and begin to create scary or catastrophic thoughts that will exacerbate the anxiety.  This is like pouring gasoline onto the flames of fear accelerating the emotional intensity.  In such a case, the traumatic memory imprint will need to be desensitized with behavioral therapy and the catastrophic thoughts will need to be challenged cognitively and replaced by thoughts that are better and more believable.


Through these well researched, evidence-based, and innovative interventions, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can provide relief to a wide range of emotional suffering.  Studies have shown CBT to be effective for: depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, marital distress, childhood somatic disorders, and chronic pain.  It has also been shown to reduce by up to 50% the risk of having a reoccurrence of depression, panic disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. CBT can offer the right help in just the right way when facilitated by an expert in both cognitive and behavioral therapies.   It may very well be that cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you.

5 Ways Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy can Help


1. Reduce anxiety.

If your cortex (thinking brain) imagines a scary story vividly, your emotional midbrain believes that it is real.  The emotional midbrain then activates the alarm center of your brain and this causes your body to go into the fight-or-flight reflex.  This results in all of the uncomfortable physical symptoms that you know as anxiety, nervousness, panic, etc.  When the mind takes us down a scary, dark alley then anxiety is sure to follow.

As a child, I liked to watch scary movies.  One night after watching “Invaders from Mars”, I awoke in the night and saw a shadowy monster in my room.  I shook in my bed trying to decide what to do.  Eventually, I found the courage to confront the monster by getting out of bed and turning on the light.  When I did, I discovered that the monster was only a chair with a shirt over the back.  In this example, my mind had played a trick on me.  A combination of shadows and a fertile imagination turned a chair into a looming threat.  Interestingly, as adults, too often we still allow thoughts to be the breeding ground for anxiety.  This is where the cognitive component of CBT can help.As an adult, I have learned that the objects of our anxiety do not come from Mars but from the mind.  Cognitive therapy helps you to learn how to change your scary mental movies and stories into ones that are more likely to be true, manageable, and potentially more positive.

2. Manage anger. 

You have just seen how scary stories can cause the midbrain to go into an emotional state of fear, the “flight” side of the fight-or-flight reflex.  However, angry self-talk and stories of being wronged can trigger an emotional response of anger, the “fight” side of the fight-or-flight reflex.  By learning how to shift your thoughts and expectations, angry feelings can dissipate and you will likely behave in ways that are less hostile, more reasonable, and more effective.

3. Lower inappropriate shame | Low self-esteem. 

When our own inner critic attacks us, makes us feel wrong, and shames us through inappropriate or dysfunctional self-blame, then cognitive therapy can help also.  We can learn to catch and change our internal patterns of automatic negative thoughts.  We can curb the self-abusive thinking that lowers self-esteem.  We can increase our ability to see ourselves compassionately and objectively.  By using CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) to change our thinking, we can learn to treat ourselves better and improve our self-esteem.  This can also carry over into treating the ones we love and are the closest to in a better and more loving way.

4. Alleviate depression. 

When a person sees their situation as hopeless and thinks that they are helpless to impact their circumstances, then a natural consequence is that they feel depressed.  When emotional pain clouds our thinking, our perception can be distorted.  Things can seem worse and feel worse than they are.  But even when one’s circumstances are really bad, depressive thinking can prevent problem-solving and inhibit our ability to ease distress.  Cognitive therapy has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants and to be longer-lasting.  It can be like turning on a light in a dark room.  Everything can seem brighter.

5. Calm obsessive thinking. 

Many people experience intrusive, disturbing, and recurring thoughts.  They don’t want to think of these distressing thoughts.  However, they continue to re-experience them over and over again.  These are the type of thoughts that can haunt you and activate upsetting emotions.  This can lead to compulsive behaviors that contaminate the quality of life.  CBT's cognitive therapy component can help obsessive-compulsive disorder.  You can learn that you do not have to believe everything you think and that you are not your thoughts.  Through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, you can learn to separate yourself from your thoughts and become an objective observer of them.  You can find peace of mind despite your mind and whatever background noise your thoughts create.


  1. Al-Saffar, S., Borgå, P., Hällström, T.  (2002) Long-term consequences of unrecognized PTSD in general outpatient psychiatry.  Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37(12):580-585.

  2. Butler, A.C., Chapman, J.E., Forman, E.M., Beck, A.T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 17-31.

  3. Hollon, S.D., Stewart, M.O., Strunk, D. (2006). Enduring effects for cognitive behavior therapy in the treatment of depression and anxiety.  Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 57, 285-315.


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