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What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy refers to psychological therapy that attempts to change or modify...







...that cause or maintain problematic emotions.

The specific type of intervention depends on the specific problem that is being addressed. But, in general, all cognitive-behavioral therapies are predicated on the belief that certain thought processes or behaviors are causative factors in developing and maintaining emotional disorders. 

The CBT therapist assists the client in... 

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identifying cognitive and behavioral factors that lead to a negative emotional state

and modifying these factors to reduce negative emotional states and encourage positive thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. 

All CBT interventions are predicated on the fact that, while humans do not have direct control over our emotions, we can control our behavior and partially control our thoughts.  Learning productive behavioral and cognitive strategies will ultimately lead to improved emotional functioning.

CBT can augment psychopharmacological treatments. For example, usual care for panic disorders tends to be pharmacotherapy. However, as Roy-Bryne et al. (2005) show, pharmacotherapy is more effective when paired with CBT. This is because CBT teaches skills to help reduce the onset and severity of panic attacks whereas pharmacotherapy just reduces the symptoms of the attacks. 


Roy-Byrne PP, Craske MG, Stein MB, et al. A Randomized Effectiveness Trial of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Medication for Primary Care Panic Disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(3):290–298. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.3.290

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."      

                                                        - Georgia O'Keeffe

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