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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?


Cognitive: To use thinking, reasoning or remembering abilities

Behavioral: Our actions and choices


Combined, this just means that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approaches problems by changing thoughts and behaviors.

How does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help change thought patterns?

According to CBT, we all have some habits in our ways of thinking that are not always accurate.   If we can challenge some of these habits, then often times our perspective and mood starts to improve.  Here are some examples of some of these habits (We call them cognitive distortions).:


All or None Thinking:  You look at things in “all-or-none” or “black-and-white” categories.

  • This type of thinking often uses terms like every, always or never. It leaves very little room for the grey area.
    • “This person is always mean to me.”
    • “Everyone is so critical.”
    • “I never get anything right.”


Overgeneralizeation:  You come to a general conclusion based on a single event or piece of evidence.

  • If something bad happens we expect it to happen over and over again, leading us to anticipate more problems than there are or expect defeat.
    • “I can’t remember anything.”
    • “I never get anything right.”
    • “I’m not good at anything.”


Mental Filter: You focus on the negatives and ignore the positives.

  • This means that the things that upset us hold more weight in our minds than the good things.
    • “My customers are always so rude; they don’t appreciate me (ignoring the 15% that are kind and grateful).”
    • “My husband never helps around the house (ignoring the times he does help).”


Magnification/Minimization:  Exaggerating the negatives or shrinking the importance of the positives.  We also call expecting the worst to happen catastrophizing”.

  • If someone gives you a compliment, you minimize that and focus on your perceived flaws.  It is like making a mountain out of a mole hill.
    • Friend says, “Your hair looks great today.”  You respond, “Ugg, but have you seen these bags under my eyes?”
    • “Its bound to get screwed up.”


Jumping to Conclusions:  Without someone telling us, we believe that we can tell how they are feeling and what they are thinking.

  • We also call this mind reading.  We also use fortune telling to predict how things will turn out in the future (typically in the negative direction).
    • “That person thought I was a total idiot.”
    • “They are never going to help me out with this problem.”


Should Statements:  Criticizing yourself or others with “should”, “ought”, “must” “have to”.

  • We often feel that this is how we motivate ourselves and we “must” follow these rules or we won’t be good enough.
    • “I should have known better.”
    • “I have to keep everyone happy.”


Personalization:  Believing things others say or do is a direct reaction to us.

  • This involves a lot of comparing to others and feeling responsible for things that we are not fully responsible for.
    • “It’s my fault that project is late at work. I should have pushed everyone harder on their deadlines or done the work myself.”

Why does CBT focus on behavior change?


It doesn’t always feel like it makes sense, but sometimes we have to act the way we want to feel.   The behavior part of CBT focuses on helping us make changes in our behaviors that help us feel the way we want.


Some examples of how we work on behavior are:


  • Scheduling positive activities to help increase the possibility for positive experiences.  Often times this is hard, because it is the last thing we “feel” like doing when we are feeling bad.


  • Self-monitoring can be helpful by keeping a log of our daily behaviors to see what actions might be making us feel good and what actions might be making us feel worse.


  • Role Playing can be helpful to practice new behaviors and skills with the therapist.


  • Behavior modification is helpful when a reward or positive thing is received in response to behavior change.  The therapist will help you look for these things.
    • Example:  You get out for a walk when you were really feeling depressed and you had a little more energy in the day.
    • Example:  You did a presentation you were really afraid to do and received praise for how good it was.

What kinds of problems can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help?

CBT is helpful for a wide variety for problems.  In fact, we all can benefit from applying these strategies to our lives.  Here are some examples of things CBT is effective in treating:

How do I get started?

The best place to start is to participate in an evaluation by a mental health professional. They can help diagnose anxiety disorders, recommend a specific intervention (therapy, medications, or both), and answer questions about the process.

If you have questions, and would like to speak to one of our mental health professionals, contact us today.

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