Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common type of mental health counseling (psychotherapy). With cognitive behavioral therapy, you work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a very helpful tool in treating mental disorders or illnesses, such as anxiety or depression. But not everyone who benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat a wide range of issues. It's often the preferred type of psychotherapy because it can quickly help you identify and cope with specific challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a useful tool to address emotional challenges. For example, it may help you:

  • Manage symptoms of mental illness, either by itself or with other treatments such as medications
  • Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms
  • Treat a mental illness when medications aren't a good option, such as during pregnancy
  • Learn techniques for copingwith stressful life situations, such as problems at work
  • Identify ways to manage emotions, such as anger
  • Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate
  • Cope with grief, such as after the loss of a loved one
  • Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
  • Cope with a medical illness, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or cancer
  • Manage chronic physical symptoms, such as pain, insomnia or fatigue

Mental health conditions that may improve with cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Sexual disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is most effective when it's combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.

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