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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

An Evidence-Based Treatment Approach

According to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), emotions are due to how people perceive or interpret their environments. Because thoughts, emotions and behaviors are all linked, altering one can help to alleviate difficulties in another. For example, changing negative thoughts about oneself:

    • Can reduce feelings of sadness and anxiety 
    • Enhance engagement and willingness to try new activities and work on improving relationships. 

CBT allows therapists to intervene at different points in the chain, as follows:

Negative thoughts can show up as: 

Unrealistic attributions: Making decisions or coming to conclusions about why something happened that may not be true or accurate. 

Unrealistic expectations: Assuming a level of control one does not have in a situation, causing disappointment expectations are not met. 

Predicted outcomes: When meeting someone for the first time, seeking to determine (“predict”) positive or negative benefits of a potential relationship. A positive prediction can lead to increased attraction; however, a negative prediction can result in a limited or no relationship.  

Internalized defectiveness schemas: Having feelings of being “defective” or bad, unwanted or inferior in important ways or, if exposed, being unlovable to significant others.

Distorted, biased or illogical thinking processes then affect emotions and behavior:

– A neutral phone message is misinterpreted as rejection 

– Physical symptoms of anxiety are misinterpreted as a medical emergency

Since emotional responses to situations arise from how they are perceived, different interpretations of the same situation can lead to entirely different emotional and behavioral outcomes.

In CBT, people learn to:

    • Distinguish between thoughts and feelings
    • Become aware of how thoughts can influence feelings in unhelpful ways
    • Realize how seemingly “automatic” thoughts may affect emotions
    • Evaluate whether automatic thoughts and assumptions are accurate or biased
    • Develop skills to help notice, interrupt, defuse, and/or correct biased thoughts

Various forms of CBT are used to treat individuals, parents, children, couples and families, replacing ways of living that do not work well with those that do. Successful outcomes give individuals more control over their lives. 

CBT can also treat a broad range of disorders, including:


A strong research base supports CBT’s effectiveness for a wide range of emotional, behavior, habit and relational problems. The therapy itself incorporates a scientific perspective. Therapist and client follow a “collaborative empiricism” approach—whereby therapeutic content is approached, via Socratic questioning, as a series of testable hypotheses.

Clients are encouraged to test out negative cognitions via “behavioral experiments” and gather evidence to assess the merits and effectiveness of maintaining vs. changing old patterns of thinking and behavior.

Read more about Evidence-Based Treatments offered at CFI…



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