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Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

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When we think about therapy and therapeutic approaches, we don’t often know the scope of treatments and approaches available, even though we may understand the benefits of therapy as an entire process.

In the realm of therapy and mental health, one of the most widely used treatments is cognitive behavioural therapy, also referred to as CBT. CBT is designed to help patients recognise and understand negative or harmful patterns in their thoughts and behaviours.

Whether you’re already working with a licensed therapist and are looking to explore new treatment approaches or are new to the process altogether, understanding the ins and outs of CBT and its benefits can help you determine if this approach is right for you.


In a nutshell, cognitive behavioural therapy is designed to address the issues of the present rather than fixate on the past. This short-term approach is meant to help patients build strategies and skills for staying healthy and being able to address problems that arise in their daily lives.

As a proactive approach, the CBT model is known for helping clients become more goal-oriented and focus on problem-solving. 

How CBT works

Patients working with their therapist in CBT work are learning to identify and question their current thought patterns and beliefs—tthe attitudes and beliefs that relate to their emotional reactions.

The CBT model

The model of cognitive behavioural therapy is a relationship between behaviours and thoughts, also referred to as cognitions. Behaviours can influence thoughts and vice versa. The CBT model includes three tiers.

  1. Conscious thoughts. These are logical, rational thoughts and decisions that are made with total awareness.
  2. Automatic thoughts: Patients may not be completely aware of these flowing thoughts. Since they cannot be checked for accuracy often, they may not register as logical thoughts.
  3. Schemas. These thoughts are part of our core beliefs and are shaped by life experiences in childhood or adolescence.

What are the benefits of CBT?

Therapy, in general, is beneficial to patients of all ages, but cognitive-behavioural therapy, in particular, offers several unique benefits:

  • Affordability. Since CBT is a short-term therapy approach – anywhere from five to 20 sessions – it may be more affordable to many patients than a long-term approach.
  • Flexibility. CBT can be offered in person, in group sessions, or virtually, using resources. This means patients can work within their schedules to incorporate CBT into their regular routines, which often leads to a greater likelihood of consistency with therapy as a whole.
  • Universal. The skills learned in CBT can be applied to various areas of everyday life. This approach is designed to give patients the tools they need to navigate the challenges and complexities of their day-to-day lives and help them take control of their thoughts and reactions.


While therapy is never a one-size-fits-all solution or a quick fix, therapeutic approaches like CBT can help those seeking tools and problem-solving skills. By being an active participant and working closely with a licensed mental health professional, you can explore the layers of CBT and determine if this approach is right for your needs.

Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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