Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

An overview of the basics

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“Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an action-oriented form of psychosocial therapy that assumes that maladaptive, or faulty, thinking patterns cause maladaptive behavior and negative emotions. (Maladaptive behavior is behavior that is counter-productive or interferes with everyday living.) The treatment focuses on changing individuals' thoughts (cognitive patterns) in order to change their behavior and emotional state. CBT can be employed with both adults and children” (Ford-Martin, P & Lerner, B. ,2012).

So what is the purpose of cognitive-behavioral therapy, well the best way to explain it is that it can be used in any situation in which there is a pattern of unwanted behavior that is associated by distress and impairment. CBT differs from other forms of traditional supportive psychotherapy because it is time limited and does not attempt to understand the analysis of the disorder. It works to change dysfunctional, ingrained thought patterns that lead to dysfunctional behaviors. CBT is a recommended treatment option for a number of mental disorders (Ford-Martin, P & Lerner, B. ,2012).

“Pioneered by psychologists Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis in the 1960s, cognitive therapy assumes that maladaptive behaviors and disturbed mood or emotions are the result of inappropriate or irrational thinking patterns, called automatic thoughts. Instead of reacting to the reality of a situation, individuals react to their own distorted viewpoint of the situation” (Ford-Martin, P & Lerner, B. ,2012). CBT combines the cognitive restructuring approach of cognitive therapy along with the behavioral modification techniques of behavioral therapy. Developed in 1955 by Albert Ellis, rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a popular variation of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is based on the belief that an individuals’ past experiences help shape their belief systems and the patterns of the way they think.

In the 1970s another psychologist Donald Meichenbaum pioneered the self-instructional approach to CBT. This approach focuses on people changing what they say to themselves, both internally and out loud. This is based on the belief that the actions of individuals’ are followed directly from them talking to themselves.


Ford-Martin, P. M., & Lerner, B. W. (2012). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. In K. Key (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 354-358). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from