CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It was developed shortly after Behavioral Therapy and emphasizes cognitions (thoughts) over behaviors but combines both in a symbiotic way. It’s not one specific approach but a model that is ever-changing to fit the needs of each person’s disorder. All techniques share a common belief that thoughts (instead of external circumstances) cause feelings and behaviors.
CBT is brief and time limited. It recognizes the importance of a strong therapeutic relationship. It is structured and directive. It relies on psychoeducation, Socratic questioning, and the inductive method. It’s not intended to tell people how to think, act, or feel but to help their thoughts, actions, and behaviors become helpful to them and consistent with reality. Homework is an essential part of the process and is used to help people make progress between sessions.
There are a large number of different CBT models that can be blended together to fit a person’s needs. All techniques include cognitive restructuring as developed by the founding fathers of Behavioral Therapy (Ellis and Beck.) An example of one of the most widely used and first formed CBT models is called Stress Inoculation Training. It uses 3 components: 1) Conceptualization (therapist explains stress and its factors); 2) Skills Acquisition and Rehearsal (includes 5 steps: problem identification, goal selection, developing alternatives, evaluation of each possible situation and its possible outcomes, and decision making/rehearsal of coping strategies); and finally, Application and Follow Through. Exposure to unpleasant stimuli is also a big part of CBT.
CBT helps address in-the-moment thoughts like thoughts of self harm or worthlessness. It helps a person reframe those thoughts into something more positive.