What is CBT and Why Is Everyone Asking For It?

By Amy Kim, Psy.D.

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it is one of the primary and most effective modalities of therapy. To put it simply, everything that you experience has a thought-emotion-behavior related to it. What you think affects how you feel affects what you do or don’t do. As a result of early life experiences, people develop habitual ways of thinking-feeling-doing. These patterns of being can then get reinforced through additional life events, sometimes even becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. For instance, say that a person’s habitual belief is, “I’m a failure”, which will then result in feeling sad and/or anxious, which will affect how a person interacts with people and the environment. Is this person likely to go after things? Take risks? Speak up? Or is this person more likely to shrink, hide, and not try things? What will the end result be of not trying things? Negative or no results. This outcome then reinforces the belief that the person is a failure. These loops are at the root of a person’s depression or anxiety. So in therapy, the process involves identifying the specific loops for that person, dissecting them, examining them, and challenging them in order to assess their validity. CBT therapy not only targets the thoughts but also challenges a person to take different actions in life to break the cycles of these negative thought-feeling-action loops. Over time, a person can have a very different experience of themselves and others. All effective therapy involves fundamental changes to one’s thought-feeling-behavior patterns.