Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on patterns of thinking that are maladaptive and the beliefs that underlie such thinking. While the person in distress likely holds such beliefs with great conviction, with a therapist’s help, the individual is encouraged to view such beliefs as hypotheses rather than facts and to test out such beliefs by running experiments. Furthermore, those in distress are encouraged to monitor and log thoughts that pop into their minds (called "automatic thoughts") in order to enable them to determine what patterns of biases in thinking may exist and to develop more adaptive alternatives to their thoughts. People who seek CBT can expect their therapist to be active, problem-focused, and goal-directed.
Studies of CBT have demonstrated its usefulness for a wide variety of problems, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and psychotic disorders. While a full description of the treatment and presenting problems for which it is useful is beyond the scope of this brief overview, a brief summary of several treatments will be presented.
CBT has been shown to be as useful as antidepressant medication for individuals with depression and is superior in preventing relapse. Patients receiving CBT for depression are encouraged to schedule activities in order to increase the amount of pleasure they experience. In addition, depressed patients learn how to restructure negative thought patterns in order to interpret their environment in a less biased way. CBT for Bipolar Disorder is used as an adjunct to medication treatment and focuses on psychoeducation about the disorder and understanding cues and triggers for relapse. Studies indicate that patients who receive CBT in addition to treatment with medication have better outcomes than patients who do not receive CBT as an adjunctive treatment.