What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Home/  Blog/ What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a highly validated mental health treatment model.

Read more Below to see if CBT is right for you.


What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a popular approach to mental health counseling. The Clinical Psychology Review published a meta-analysis (a way to statistically reviewing the literature) and found CBT to be an effective way of treating a variety of psychological issues. A researcher at Dartmouth writes that CBT believes that changing attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts promotes and maintains specific problems.


What can I expect during from a CBT session?


That same researcher from Dartmouth highlights the importance of identifying central thinking patterns, called “schemas.” These schemas are beliefs about yourself that fuel problematic/maladaptive behaviors.


Your therapist and you may explore the schemas that are fueling your attitudes and beliefs about yourself.


As part of this process, you and your therapist may also explore what are called cognitive distortions (see section below). Additionally, a CBT therapist will likely give you homework to work on outside of sessions.


CBT can be short term, long term, and can be applied to both thoughts and behaviors that are associated with mental illness or other concerning mental health conditions.


What are cognitive distortions?

The easiest way to think about a cognitive distortion is to break down the name. Cognition, or thoughts, that are distorted, blown up beyond accuracy.


For instance, a common cognitive distortion is called “Black and White Thinking,” which means that you are looking at things in absolutes (i.e., good or bad).


A common example of “Black and White Thinking” would be that things are either “good” or “bad.” See the “Can I do CBT on myself” section for an example of how you can check your cognitive distortions on your own.


Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Does CBT really work?

 Yes, yes it does! Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that CBT is effective at treating a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders, social phobias, and childhood depression and anxiety. There is also a version of CBT for couples therapy and has been found to be effective at improving marital quality.


CBT has also been shown to be effective at treating eating disorders.


CBT is one of the most medically reviewed and validated mental health treatment modalities.


Can CBT make you worse?

Growth and change can be uncomfortable. Meaning it can sometimes feel like things are getting worse before they get better. However, a NIH study on CBT and depression stated that there are no mental health diagnosis they believe would be a bad fit for CBT.


The study also stated that special training or expertise using CBT may be needed to work with some personality disorders or individuals with intellectual disabilities.


What is CBT not good for?

Like many therapeutic approaches you need to find one that is not only effective but is a good fit for you and an individual. CBT has a lot of literature that shows it is effective, but that does not mean that it would be effective for you. It is always okay for you to check in with your therapist about their approach (like CBT) and let them know if you are feeling like their approach is not working for you.

What is the difference between behavioral therapy and CBT?

CBT is an approach that grew out of behavioral therapy. A book chapter on this topic states that behavioral therapy was influenced by B.F. Skinner and his theory on operant conditioning.


Operant conditioning believes that behaviors that are reinforced will be repeated, while ones that are punished will go away (or be extinguished). For instance, as a kid many people were given gold stars when they did well at school, which is a type of operant conditioning.


It is trying to reinforce a specific behavior. Behavioral therapy focuses primarily on behaviors, where as CBT is focused on thoughts and beliefs in addition to behaviors.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy


How much does CBT cost?

CBT is a type of therapy and the approach of therapy does not impact how much it costs. Costs for therapy vary by providers (therapists) and where you live. The average therapy session in Minnesota costs $60-120. Costs of care at ALL IN can range from $125 to $205 per hour because of the level of care we provide.


However, it is important to consider that the Affordable Care Act significantly expanded insurance coverage for mental health services.


Not all insurances cover mental health services equally, so be sure and check with your insurance provider.


For people who have no insurance or have not so great mental health coverage you can also check and see if therapists offer a sliding scale.


A sliding scale means that providers (therapists) will change their rate (cost per hour) based on your income.


These scales vary, and if therapy is still too expensive on that scale be sure and check into local free mental health services. For instance, in the Twin Cities area Walk-In Counseling Center offers free brief therapy services (meaning you can see a therapist at no cost for approximately 7 sessions).


How long does it take for CBT to work?

How long CBT takes for you will vary from person to person. It will also depend on the type of mental health issues that prompted to you seek out therapy. A review in the Clinical Psychology Review found that CBT for depression was more effective with 16 sessions (when compared to 8 sessions).


Be sure and talk to your therapist about goals and how you will know when you are done with therapy.


Can I do CBT on myself?

For sure, there are techniques from CBT that you can practice on your own. For instance, a thought log is a way for you to track your automatic thoughts, or your cognitive distortions.


To start a thought log, you want to write down the thought you are having, the situation that you were in when you had the thought, and the emotion you were feeling when you had that thought.


Next, you want to evaluate how true your first thought feels (0%-100% true). Then you will argue your case with your automatic thought. What evidence is there that your thought is wrong/right?


Lastly, what is a thought that still feels true, but may be a less extreme version of your first automatic thought.


For instance, say you are at work with a big project/deadline coming up, you might have an automatic thought that says, “I am a failure, I will never get everything done.” Your situation is at work under a deadline, and your feelings are panic and self-doubt. You then think of how true that thought feels, it may feel 99% true. You then will argue a case with your automatic thought (pro/con’s). For instance, part of your argument for the thought would be that this is the biggest project you have ever taken on. The argument against, might be you have never missed a deadline before, you have X and Y skill that will help you finish. Then you will see if you can find a less extreme version of that thought. You might come up with the thought “I am worried about finishing this project on time.” This thought could feel 75% true, and it is less extreme than the first thought as it is not an assessment of you as a person (i.e., “I am a failure”).


You can find different versions of thought logs online and there are even some apps for your smart phones that offer a thought log.


While some CBT techniques like this can be done on your own, it is important to be aware of if you are feeling stuck or like things are getting worse.


If that is the case, then you should consider seeking out a therapist to help you get unstuck and start to feel better.


Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy be used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

CBT’s effectiveness is not limited to treat depression, anxiety disorders, or other emotional and behavioral issues. It can also be applied to treat more mental illness, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is also evidence to show it is just as effective as another highly validated treatment model called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). CBT is also as effective as mental health medication,


For more information on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, read this article on the American Psychological Association’s website.


You can always find a therapist that practices CBT at ALL IN.




Beronio, K., Glied, S., & Frank, R. (2014). How the Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act greatly expand coverage of behavioral health care. The journal of behavioral health services & research41(4), 410-428.

Butler, A. C., Chapman, J. E., Forman, E. M., & Beck, A. T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: a review of meta-analyses. Clinical psychology review26(1), 17-31.

Cluxton-Keller, F. (2011). Cognitive behavioral models of family therapy. Marriage and family therapy: A practice-oriented approach.

Gautam, M., Tripathi, A., Deshmukh, D., & Gaur, M. (2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression. Indian journal of psychiatry62(Suppl 2), S223.

Grilo, C. M., Masheb, R. M., & Wilson, G. T. (2005). Efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy and fluoxetine for the treatment of binge eating disorder: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled comparison. Biological Psychiatry, 57(3), 301-309.

Seidler, G. H., & Wagner, F. E. (2006). Comparing the efficacy of EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of PTSD: a meta-analytic study. Psychological medicine, 36(11), 1515-1522.

 Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.


Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

Need Help ?