Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, practical, and goal-oriented therapy that works on the basic assumption that the way people think and behave can contribute to their emotional experience. CBT focuses on present day problems and seeks to identify the thinking patterns, dysfunctional beliefs, and maladaptive behaviors that contribute to and maintain psychological symptoms. CBT is the most widely studied psychological intervention and has the strongest base of evidence for the effective treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders.
Throughout the course of CBT, patients are taught to monitor and record their negative thoughts so that they can recognize the associations between their thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behavior. They learn to evaluate the validity and utility of these cognitions, test them out empirically, and change unhelpful cognitions to a more adaptive viewpoint. As therapy progresses, patients learn to identify, evaluate, and modify the underlying assumptions and dysfunctional beliefs that give rise to these negative thinking patterns and contribute to the maintenance of their symptoms. Patients also learn adaptive coping and problem-solving skills and engage in a variety of behavioral techniques to address patterns of fear and avoidance.
CBT involves regular homework assignments between treatment sessions. Homework exercises allow clients to practice skills they have already learned, and to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving. Homework is essential to the success of this kind of treatment.