Founder, Description, Philosophy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an approach with over 60 years of research and development. The approach is an integration of cognitive therapy (CT) and behaviour therapy (BT) which go back to 1950’s and 1960’s animal behaviour studies. It focuses on challenging and changing thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that are unhelpful for more helpful ones, improving emotional regulation, and developing strategies to cope with distress from specific problems. This type of therapy is problem-focused and action-oriented, which means that the focus is on specific problems related to diagnosed mental disorders. It can be used in people without diagnosed disorders as well. The basic premise is that thoughts, behaviours, and emotions are all interrelated and influenced by what a person believes about themselves, others, and their future.

What type of problems is this approach used to treat and what populations can it serve?

Cognitive behavioural therapy has been used to treat mild forms of depression and anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, insomnia, tic and habit disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders. Obsessive compulsive disorder, major depression, psychotic disorder, and bipolar disorder can be treated with CBT however it is typically done in combination with medication. It can be used with adults, adolescents, and children. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be done in person and has also been used with online interventions, e-therapy, self-help, group courses, or smart-phone delivered methods.

What does this approach look like in practice? What are some types of interventions?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is time-limited and problem focused, therefore you will likely have a set number of sessions designed to work on specific goals in therapy. The CBT model hypothesizes that people’s thoughts and feelings are determined by their interpretation of different situations and not determined by the situations themselves. Therefore, in therapy, CBT uses interventions to change the dysfunctional beliefs that a client has which result in automatic thoughts that trigger emotions in specific situations. Therapists that use CBT in their practice will often use homework and educational components in their work to accomplish this task well. CBT promotes active collaboration between the client and therapist and requires a good alliance between the two. The interventions focus mostly on the present with less importance given to the past.




Thoma, N., Pilecki, B., Mckay, D. (2015). Contemporary cognitive behavior therapy: A review of theory, history, and evidence. Psychodynamic psychiatry, 43, 423-462