Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy. It was originally designed to treat depression, but is now used for a number of mental illnesses.
It works to solve current problems and change unhelpful thinking and behavior. The name refers to behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive principles. Most therapists working with patients dealing with anxiety and depression use a blend of cognitive and behavioral therapy. This technique acknowledges that there may be behaviors that cannot be controlled through rational thought, but rather emerge based on prior conditioning from the environment and other external and/or internal stimuli. CBT is “problem focused” (undertaken for specific problems) and “action oriented” (therapist tries to assist the client in selecting specific strategies to help address those problems), or directive in its therapeutic approach. It is different from the more traditional, psychoanalytical approach, where therapists look for the unconscious meaning behind the behaviors and then diagnose the patient. Instead, behaviorists believe that disorders, such as depression, have to do with the relationship between a feared stimulus and an avoidance response, resulting in a conditioned fear, much like Ivan Pavlov. Cognitive therapists believed that conscious thoughts could influence a person’s behavior all on its own. Ultimately, the two theories were combined to create what is now known as cognitive behavioral therapy.