Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - What Does CBT Do for Mental Health?

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How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help Mental Health?

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be one of the most potent intervention methods to improve mental health disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has gained wide popularity in psychological treatment because of its success in many research studies that showed improvement in many participants who underwent the treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy centers on the concept that your thought patterns and your behaviors are directly related to one another and both have a profound impact on your reality. CBT involves recognizing your faulty or distorted thoughts, then changing them. Furthermore, CBT also involves modifying your behavior as a result of shifting your thoughts.

Standard Methods of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy usually entails five steps during a client’s therapy program. According to Mayo Clinic, these five steps include:

Identifying difficult circumstances and feelings in your life
Bringing awareness to the specific thoughts you have about these circumstances and feelings
Assessing your thoughts to identify any that are negative, false, and dysfunctional
Reframing your thoughts around the circumstance to those that are true, valid, and helpful
Practicing other mindfulness strategies and coping mechanisms

How a CBT Therapist Can Help You

When undergoing CBT treatment, a CBT-trained therapist will help you change your thinking patterns over time. They will guide you to recognize your distorted thinking and identify these thoughts as negative or irrational. Then, CBT therapists will challenge you to question these thoughts that arise to evaluate if they are based on reality or a deeply ingrained falsehood. Often, dysfunctional patterns of thinking trace so far back that it takes some time to retrain the brain to reject them as false. This is a process that your therapist will guide you through. Over time, it will become easier and more comfortable to distinguish thoughts based on health and reality from those of harm and dysfunction. The therapists will also work with you to modify their behavior positively and beneficially.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea that psychological problems are partially results of faulty or unproductive thinking combined with negative learned behaviors. Therefore, those who suffer from mental illnesses will be better able to conquer their psychological state if they shift their thought patterns and actual behavior. CBT teaches clients to calm their bodies by relaxing their minds.

Like homework, clients need to practice the techniques they learn during their therapy sessions outside of their session. This will help them develop their new thought patterns, skills, and behaviors on a more permanent basis.

One of the hallmark features of CBT that sets it apart from other therapies is that the sessions are usually part of a timed and organized program with objective goals for the client to achieve. That way, the client will know what their “progress” looks like and what positive changes to expect by the end of the program.

Risks Associated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There is minimal risk that comes with taking part in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT therapy clients may face emotional discomfort or distress during therapy, similar to other therapies’ discomfort possibilities. During sessions, clients may talk about painful experiences or feelings to reassess negative thoughts and eventually reduce the emotional pain associated with those experiences.

The same idea can be applied to exposure-response therapy in the treatment of phobias. For example, a client who is fearful of ants will face some temporary stress or anxiety when during initial exposure to ants during therapy sessions. However, it is essential to remember that these treatment programs are intended to emotionally and mentally help the client move forward over time, not just find comfort in the short-term. The goal of these therapies is to conquer their fears and help them reduce their emotional reaction.

As with most therapeutic treatments, CBT therapy’s success is partially dependent on the client’s desire and readiness to change. They must be willing to spend the effort and time required to assess their feelings and thoughts. It can be hard work to identify and analyze thought patterns that feel dysfunctional or disturbing. Putting the strategies learned in sessions into action is also both critical and challenging. However, if the client is willing to put in the work to change their thought patterns and behaviors, they could benefit tremendously from a CBT approach.

Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Clients who undergo CBT will often end up with a greater sense of confidence, less negative and racing thoughts, and a more consistent ability to engage in healthy behavior. Being able to talk things out in therapy can serve as an outlet for individuals who might otherwise bottle their emotions and, in more severe cases, struggle with getting out of bed, finding motivation, or leading productive lives. CBT can also help regulate emotions for those who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, and ADHD.

What Mental Health Diagnoses Can Improve with CBT?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a common mental health disorder among Americans that often gets overlooked or goes without treatment. One reason for this is the stubborn and dangerous stigma that bravery means facing your demons alone without asking for help. Under this stigma, discussing, recognizing, and seeking treatment for mental health disorders such as PTSD may be considered “weak.” Military veterans, victims of abuse, and victims of violence are populations where PTSD commonly exists. Eliminating the shame associated with reaching out for help can be a critical first step in getting the client into therapy. CBT can help clients with PTSD identify and redirect their thoughts to bring healing and remedy behaviors.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has also shown to be extremely beneficial in treating patients with OCD. OCD and PTSD share many similarities in terms of signs and symptoms. Therefore, they can often be treated using similar methods. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition in which the client repeatedly has disturbing or unproductive thoughts (obsessions). To alleviate these thoughts and stress, they engage in behaviors (compulsions) they believe will help dismiss or rectify their negative thoughts. However, the intrusive thoughts of those with OCD are often irrational, and their behaviors are often very unproductive. Unlike other individuals, those with OCD typically cannot find relief from their thought patterns, even when carrying out their compulsions. This leads to a continued cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help treat OCD by targeting both the obsession and compulsion pieces of the disorder. CBT helps clients with OCD learn to identify their obsessive thoughts as irrational and cope with the thought without letting it ruminate further or allowing the thought to spiral into a compulsive action.

Other Mental Health Struggles and Stressors

It is important to mention that you don’t need to be diagnosed with a specific mental health disorder to benefit from Cognitive Behavior Therapy. CBT has been a useful tool for people going through common life problems such as low self-esteem, loss of a loved one, general stress, negative self-talk, or difficulties in their relationships. Loved ones of those who suffer from mental health disorders such as addiction or depression can also benefit from CBT as they learn to better manage their mental states while loving someone who is struggling.

Listed below are some of the strategies CBT-trained therapists will use during treatment programs.

Techniques which may be used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Guided discovery to identify self-limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns
Journaling to track your thoughts and discover patterns
Analyzing your thoughts and writing down evidence against them when they are negative, false, or harmful
Restructuring thinking which leads to catastrophizing or behavioral dysfunction
Positive self-talk to replace false and harmful beliefs with positive truths

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health condition, reaching out to a professional may improve your quality of life. The caring and competent staff at All Points North Lodge are here to help you every step of the way.

Please speak to one of our knowledgeable staff members today by giving us a call or starting a chat below.


Reviewed and Edited by the team at All Points North Lodge.


*We cannot understate the importance of working with a doctor and therapist as you recover. None of this content is intended as medical advice. Speak with your providers to find a plan and strategies that work for you. If you don’t have a therapist or provider, give us a call.


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Anna Mason

Anna Mason

Director of Marketing

Anna is a champion of stories and people person who works as the Director of Marketing for All Points North. Anna's heart beats for the "aha moments" of mental health, and she considers it an honor to create content that fosters these moments for people everywhere.