What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Definition

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a counseling treatment for mental and sleep disorders, is a psychotherapeutic approach to cure patients with mental disorders. It is being used with much success to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia and more.

CBT is a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy is trained at your thoughts and moods. Behavioral therapy is targeted at your behavior, your actions.

You are made aware of the negativity and inaccuracy of your thinking in a highly focused and structured process. Once you are able to do identify this, you become well equipped to correctly analyze any such situations in the future.

It is more effective in controlling insomnia and gives better results than most sleeping medical aids to treat long-term sleep problems.

You attend a limited number of sessions with a trained psychotherapist or therapist who is a mental health counselor. He is a medical professional who helps patients with emotional stress to achieve mental wellness.

There is an active interaction between both the patient and the counselor. The counselor helps analyze specific problems you may have and tries to solve them by suggesting new ways of behavior and changing thinking patterns. He turns your negativity into positivity by implementing time-proven techniques and strategies.

The sessions help you to face your problem in a new way that helps to reduce it, handle complicated relationships in a more efficient manner and in general, make you more competent to tackle the common challenges in life.

When is CBT advised?

CBT is advised in people suffering from:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Phobias
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sexual dysfunction

In stubborn cases, it is sometimes necessary to combine CBT with other medications such as antidepressants.

CBT sessions and procedure

Depending on your problem, you will have one to two sessions per week with your therapist. Alternatively, he may start with one session per week or once every two weeks.

A total of 5 to 20 sessions may be required. Each session can last up to an hour. In between lessons, there will be homework for you to do.  This will include writing down your thought records and carrying out some behavioral experiments. There will also be some lessons to do at home based on psychoeducational and self-assessment thoughts. 

The therapy duration tends to be short, lasting five to ten months for most emotional disorders.

Initially, your therapist will record the cause of your problem, about what is troubling you and causing you stress and sleeplessness. He will also try to diagnose and investigate any medical condition you may be suffering from.

He will record the treatments you have had before starting your therapy.

After analyzing your record, he will explain the course of your therapy and what you can expect.

At the end of the therapy, you would have learned how to identify any wrong thinking patterns that have a negative influence on your behavior and sentiments. Once identified, CBT will help you choose the right thinking and approach to the specific problem.

How effective is CBT?

CBT may be advised alone or in combination with medication. After 8 to 15 sessions, CBT alone is about 50 to 75% effective in overcoming depression. Medication alone has proved equally efficient.

However, when CBT is combined with medication, effectiveness climbs to 75 to 90 percent to overcome a mental disorder.

According to a study, cognitive behavioral therapy decreased sleep latency by 54% compared to relaxation therapy, which reduced it by 16%. It is as effective as a medical or pharmacological treatment in elderly people.

Cannabis dependence

There is ample evidence to show that multi-session CBT is highly efficient in curing the dependence on cannabis and nicotine.

However, it is not so efficient in treating opioid and alcohol dependence.


There are appreciable results in treating symptoms of acute schizophrenia with CBT. However, for chronic symptoms or to prevent relapse the results are not so encouraging.


CBT alone works well for minor to moderate depression. However, for major depressive disorder, there is a need to add medication along with CBT.                                                                                                                               

Anxiety disorders 

CBT alone for treating anxiety disorders works well and there is consistent evidence to show that.

Bulimia Nervosa

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a first-line psychotherapeutic treatment to cure bulimia nervosa and is widely considered to be most effective.


There are considerable results to show the superior efficacy of CBT to treat insomnia. It improves sleep quality and increases sleep time.

Stress management

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most beneficial ways to manage stress. It is more effective than other treatments such as organization-focused therapies.