Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Concepts, Types & Techniques
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Concepts, Types & Techniques


In the 1960s, Aaron Beck proposed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a psychotherapeutic approach that deals with automatic negative thoughts, cognitive distortions and underlying beliefs or schemas that disturb one’s cognition, emotions and behaviours. Today, CBT is extensively researched and used in the treatment of a variety of mental and physical conditions.

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a psychotherapy that helps people identify and change their destructive thought patterns that often negatively affect their behaviours and emotions. It also involves replacing these thought patterns and undesirable behaviours with objective, realistic and desirable thoughts and behaviours. As the term suggests, cognitive behavioural therapy is a combination of cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy.
CBT is based on the following core concepts:

  • Psychological issues are partly based on unhelpful thinking
  • Psychological issues are partly based on learned behavioural patterns
  • Those living with the aforementioned issues can improve by using better coping mechanisms and management of symptoms

It can be used to treat a wide range of psychological conditions including, but not limited to, addiction, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mood disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, personality disorders, schizophrenia, phobias, and substance abuse. CBT can also be used alongside other interventions in the treatment of insomnia, chronic pain or serious illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia and chronic pain. It could also help cope with distressing experiences such as a breakup, divorce, grief, loss, low self-esteem, and relationship issues and manage stress.

What are some types of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

There are many types of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Each type uses a variety of techniques and approaches to address our thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

  • Cognitive therapy: Cognitive therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the identification and changing of inaccurate and/or distorted thoughts and/or emotional patterns, that affect the individual’s behaviour.
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on addressing destructive and disruptive thoughts and behaviours using strategies such as emotional regulation and mindfulness.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Acceptance and Commitment Therapy involves the acceptance of negative or unwanted thoughts. This form of CBT can particularly help those individuals with catastrophic and/or intrusive thinking.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): As the name suggests, MBCT uses techniques such as mindfulness and meditation in conjunction with cognitive therapy in the treatment of disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
  • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT): Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy focuses on the identification of irrational beliefs, and then actively challenging these beliefs. Eventually, the client learns to recognize and change these thought patterns on their own.
  • Multimodal therapy: Multimodal therapy involves the treatment of psychological issues using interconnected modalities such as behaviour, emotions, sensation, imagery, cognitions, and interpersonal and biological factors.
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves the gradual exposure of the individual to anxiety-inducing activities/situations for specific periods. In this period, they learn to deal with their anxiety in a better, more adaptive manner.

Techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Some techniques used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches include:

  • Learning problem-solving skills
  • Identification of negative thoughts
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Thought recording through journalling
  • Guided self-discovery and questioning
  • Self-monitoring and tracking one’s progress
  • Replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk
  • Systematic desensitization and situation exposure
  • Progressive muscular relaxation and other strategies to manage stress
  • Practicing new skills that would help deal with and replace the negative thoughts
  • Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based) goals

Read More: 8 Techniques from Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Positive Change

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The major aim of CBT is to help people understand that while they cannot control every aspect of their life experience and their environments, they can still control how they respond to it. The benefits of undergoing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are as follows:

  • Clients become more self-aware.
  • It is more affordable than other therapy options.
  • Clients/ could take CBT online as well as in person.
  • Clients learn skills that they can apply in their everyday life.
  • It is a short-term therapy option, with long-term outcomes.
  • Clients develop healthier and more positive thought patterns.

Limitations of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Despite the numerous benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, there are still some limitations to consider:

  • Clients must be willing to change.
  • CBT is highly structured and does not focus on factors underlying change.
  • Change is a difficult process, and it could take time depending on the client’s ability.
  • Clients receive home assignments that might take up their time outside therapy sessions as well.

In conclusion, cognitive behavioural therapy is a good option if you are hoping to deal with problems you’re experiencing currently. However, there are other psychotherapy options to consider in cases where CBT does not fit your needs or work for you. It is recommended that you reach out to a licensed mental health professional to help you figure out and navigate through your options.

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