What Is CBT ?

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), is a  form of psychotherapy that blends strategies from traditional behavioral treatments with various cognitively oriented strategies. 

It is different from other forms of psychotherapy (e.g., traditional psycho-dynamic psychotherapies) in that the focus of treatment is on changing the maladaptive thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors that are believed to be maintaining a problem, rather than on helping a client to gain insight into early developmental factors that may have set the stage for the problem. There are structured treatment protocols based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles for a wide variety of psychological conditions including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance use disorders.

Duration, frequency, and format of CBT sessions vary greatly, depending on the type of problem being treated, the therapist’s availability, and the client’s preferences. 

Typically, treatment consists of 10 to 20 sessions, usually occurring weekly. However, individuals with complex presentations (e.g., significant comorbidity, personality disorders) may take longer than 20 sessions to treat, and individuals with very-focused problems (e.g., specific phobias) can often be treated in a much smaller number of sessions. Treatment may occur individually or in groups. Although CBT is often administered on an outpatient basis, there are also inpatient and day-treatment programs based on a CBT approach. 

CBT sessions usually begin with the therapist and client collaborating to set an agenda for the meeting. The bulk of each session is spent teaching, reviewing, or applying specific CBT strategies to the client’s problems. Early sessions are often more didactic, with the therapist describing how to use particular techniques, while in later sessions more time is spent using the new strategies. Homework is often assigned to encourage clients to review and practice the CBT strategies on a daily basis.

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 Yair Berko, MSW is a Clinical Social Worker and an expert CBT Therapist.

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