Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has become the treatment of choice for many emotional and behavioral problems. CBT is an action-oriented, problem-solving form of psychosocial therapy that draws from both cognitive and behavioral therapies.
Cognitive behavior therapists often use imagery, self instruction and various techniques to alter distorted attitudes, perceptions and behaviors. The treatment focuses on changing an individual's thoughts in order to change his or her behavior and emotional state. CBT can resemble education, coaching or tutoring and clients are often requested to complete homework assignments between therapy sessions.
Pioneered by Psychologists Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis in the 1960s, cognitive therapy assumes that maladaptive behaviors and disturbed mood or emotions are the result of inappropriate or irrational thinking patterns called automatic thoughts. Instead of reacting to the reality of a situation, individuals react to their own distorted viewpoint of the situation. For example, a child may conclude that he or she is "worthless" because he or she failed an exam or lost his or her “best” friend. Cognitive therapists attempt to make their clients aware of their distorted thinking patterns and change them. Often, the client may have certain fundamental core beliefs, which are flawed and require a change of awareness. A number of different techniques may be employed in CBT to help clients uncover their distorted beliefs, the associated emotional complexes and to effectively change their behaviors.
CBT has been very thoroughly researched. In study after study, it has often been shown to be as effective as drugs in treating both depression and anxiety. Other symptoms for which CBT has demonstrated its effectiveness include problems with relationships, family, work, school, insomnia, and self esteem. It is usually the preferred treatment for shyness, headaches, panic attacks, phobias, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, loneliness and procrastination. It can also be combined, if needed, with other biological treatment approaches.
However, CBT is not a "set of methods" that works for all disorders. There are not simply two, three, or four strategies that work to help everyone with all kinds of mental healthcare problems. Thus, CBT, while always being active, structured and solution focused, must employ different methods of overcoming the particular challenges in question.