What is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

by | Jun 30, 2022

A brief look at psychotherapy’s gold standard.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a commonly used and empirically supported form of psychotherapy that is accessible, versatile, goal-oriented, structured, and time-limited (6 to 20 sessions). It is used to treat a variety of mental health concerns and is particularly effective for anxiety and depression. CBT can be used on its own or combined with other psychotherapeutic approaches and has been shown to have lasting positive effects on clients’ mental health and quality of life, as well as is effective in relapse prevention. Its versatility and structure, as well as its strong empirical support, are what initially sparked my interest in this approach, and it quickly became one of my favorite forms of therapy to practice, and thus, is one of the approaches I most commonly use today (if appropriate for the unique client).

The cognitive-behavioural theory conceptualizes therapy, clients, and their issues using two key principles, as follows: emotions and behaviours are greatly influenced by thoughts, and behaviours are key in the maintenance or change of current psychological conditions (here-and-now focus). CBT helps clients learn to identify, understand, challenge, and change how their thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs are connected to the emotional and behavioural reactions that may be impairing their functioning. It allows the therapist and client to collaboratively identify and modify maladaptive thoughts and explore underlying core beliefs to work towards developing more adaptive thoughts and beliefs, which ultimately foster symptom improvement and positive therapeutic change. Furthermore, CBT equips clients with the knowledge and skills needed to alleviate distress and cope with their challenges not only throughout the therapeutic process, but after as well. Techniques commonly used within CBT may include cognitive techniques such as cognitive restructuring, thoughts records, and guided discovery, as well as behavioural techniques such as behavioural activation, behavioural experiments, and relaxation techniques.

Interested in learning more about CBT? Check out the link below.


– Amanda Thomas, MA., RP(Q).


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CAMH. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/cognitive-behavioural-therapy

Fenn, K., & Byrne, M. (2013). The key principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. InnovAiT: Education and Inspiration for General Practice6(9), 579–585. https://doi.org/10.1177/1755738012471029 

Easden, M. H., & Fletcher, R. B. (2020). Therapist competence in case conceptualization and outcome in CBT for depression. Psychotherapy Research, 30(2), 151–169. https://doi.org/10.1080/10503307.2018.1540895

Josefowitz, N., & Myran, D. (2017). CBT made simple: A clinician’s guide to practicing cognitive behavioral therapy. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Kennerley, H., Kirk, J., & Westbrook, D. (2017). An introduction to cognitive behaviour therapy: skills & applications. Sage Publications.


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