Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes and contents through a number of goal-oriented, explicit systematic procedures. The name refers to behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive principles and research. 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. 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).
CBT is thought to be effective for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, tic, and psychotic disorders. Many CBT treatment programs for specific disorders have been evaluated for efficacy; the health-care trend of evidence-based treatment, where specific treatments for symptom-based diagnoses are recommended, has favored CBT over other approaches such as psychodynamic treatments.
CBT was primarily developed through an integration of behavior therapy (the term “behavior modification” appears to have been first used by Edward Thorndike) with cognitive psychology research, first by Donald Meichenbaum and several other authors with the label of cognitive-behavior modification in the late 1970s. This tradition thereafter merged with earlier work of a few clinicians, labeled as Cognitive Therapy (CT), developed by Aaron Beck, and Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) developed by Albert Ellis. While rooted in rather different theories, these two traditions have been characterised by a constant reference to experimental research to test hypotheses, both at clinical and basic level. Common features of CBT procedures are the focus on the “here and now”, a directive or guidance role of the therapist, a structuring of the psychotherapy sessions and path, and on alleviating both symptoms and patients’ vulnerability.