What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Different patients require various types of psychotherapy to meet their needs. The best therapist and approach for you will depend on your situation and symptoms. When you schedule a consultation with us at Principium Psychiatry, we will work with you to determine which therapy model best fits your needs.

One of the approaches we may take is cognitive behavioral therapy, a common form of counseling that combines behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy to improve a client’s thinking patterns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Definition

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psychotherapy treatment that represents a hybrid of two successful treatment modalities. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, a person can simultaneously address their thinking and behavioral patterns.

What Is Cognitive Therapy?

Cognitive therapy rests on the foundational belief that a person’s thought patterns affect how they behave. For instance, someone living with depression may deal with negative thoughts and defeating self-talk. Through cognitive therapy, a person can change their way of thinking, so they believe they are good enough. This simple change in thought patterns can positively impact their mood.

Of course, altering your thought processes can be challenging, especially when you have a mental illness that leads you to believe terrible things about yourself. A CBT therapist will analyze how you think and help you discover ways to change your thinking. Your therapist may encourage you to confront your negative thoughts and examine your situation from a positive angle.

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

On the other hand, behavioral therapy addresses how your behavioral patterns impact your emotions. With your therapist, you will work to understand how your behaviors affect your life, and find solutions to change the way you act and feel. The goal is to replace negative behaviors with positive ones.

Combining these forms of therapy in cognitive behavioral therapy will teach you how to identify, challenge and replace your disturbing or destructive thought patterns with realistic, objective ones.

The History of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Dr. Aaron Beck pioneered cognitive behavioral therapy in the 1960s. At the time, Beck was practicing psychoanalysis at the University of Pennsylvania, and he observed that his patients often had an internal monologue, but that they only reported a fraction of these thoughts to him.

Beck noticed a link between his clients’ thoughts and feelings. How they perceived his behaviors as their therapist, for example, could affect how they felt. After establishing this link, he created the term “automatic thoughts.” This term refers to emotionally fraught thoughts that can pop up in a person’s mind.

If someone is experiencing distress, their thoughts are typically negative, unrealistic and unhelpful. Identifying this issue can allow a person to understand their difficulties and overcome them. This approach later became known as cognitive behavioral therapy because it emphasizes thinking and behaviors.

Negative Thoughts and Our Cognitive Function

What do negative thoughts mean for CBT? For CBT, the foundational theory is that the events in our lives alone aren’t what upset us. Instead, we experience anxiety from the meaning we give these events. Overly negative thoughts can become intrusive and prevent us from learning new things.

Negative thinking patterns may start in our childhoods. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to help clients understand what is going on and how they can identify and change their automatic thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

During a CBT session, your therapist will help you identify any unhealthy thinking patterns and change them to healthier ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly focused and goal-oriented, and your therapist is likely to take a particularly active role in your sessions. The following are examples of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

Exposure Therapy

One of the most commonly used cognitive behavioral therapy exercises is exposure therapy. Specifically, exposure therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, OCD and phobias. During treatment, a client and therapist will identify the client’s triggers and learn exercises to avoid feeling anxiety in their presence.

There are two methods for exposing clients to triggers.

  • Desensitization: During desensitization, the therapist presents small amounts of the triggering stimulus, and increases it over time.
  • Flooding: During flooding, the therapist introduces a large amount of the trigger.

During either form, the person learns how to cope with their anxiety triggers and use these coping mechanisms in their everyday life.


Another CBT technique is role-playing. This exercise can help you act out different behaviors in difficult situations to:

  • Lessen your fear.
  • Practice your social skills.
  • Improve your assertiveness.
  • Hone your communication skills.
  • Improve your problem-solving skills.
  • Gain confidence and familiarity with specific situations.


Writing is a great way to get in touch with your thoughts and feelings. Your therapist may suggest that you list your negative thoughts between sessions, along with the positive ideas you replace them with.

This journal can help you track your progress. You will see how you have been replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones and how you’ve been implementing new behaviors.

Who Can Benefit From CBT Therapy and What Can It Treat?

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help anyone who wants to develop coping skills and change their negative thought patterns. CBT can treat a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Anger management
  • Problems with stress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be most effective for those who have specific problems or symptoms, instead of people who are feeling vaguely unfulfilled or unhappy. You and your therapist will work together to establish and reach mutually agreed-upon goals. You may also receive homework to complete between your therapy sessions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Near Me From Principium Psychiatry

Principium offers four convenient locations; two offices in Manhattan with one near Grand Central Station and another office along Wall Street. In addition, we have an office in Greenwich Connecticut and Santa Monica California. We specialize in comprehensive treatments for anxiety and mood disorders and offer an innovative approach to cognitive behavioral therapy. Our techniques allow us to help a range of clients who have unique needs for psychiatric care. We can tailor our numerous treatment types to each of our clients’ individual needs, including:

Our TMS and ketamine treatments are incredibly effective at treating depression. If you are seeking state-of-the-art cognitive therapy in the heart of New York City, contact us at Principium Psychiatry for more information or book an appointment with our treatment providers today.

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