Update: Here are cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for anxiety and depression disorders to get you on your way to a healthier you.

What is cognitive behavioral theory?

The cognitive theory focuses on the rationality of one’s thinking patterns and the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Cognitive behavior theory is not concerned with internal mental processes but rather how human behavior, whether adaptive or problematic, is developed, sustained, or eliminated through its external reinforcement. The nature of change in cognitive-behavioral theory is apparent in its hyphenated term. That is, patients can be helped to change in three ways:

  • Cognitively, by teaching them how to identify and change distorted thinking;
  • Behaviourally, by offering skills training to improve coping capability; and
  • Experientially, by helping individuals set up natural experiments so they can test the extent to which their beliefs about an event are rational.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used in the strengths and skills-based model when people are ready to take action toward their problems and when it appears that a lack of knowledge or skills represents a barrier to more effective functioning.

How long does it take for cognitive behavioral therapy to work?

What makes cognitive-behavioral therapy unique and different is while other treatment approaches spend a great amount of time digging deep and probing why you feel depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem, CBT sticks to the current thoughts and behaviors

There are certain factors which determine the number of sessions needed to achieve a successful result when using cognitive-behavioral therapy for treating anxiety, depression. At the same time, because each individual is unique, these generalizations are not applicable to everyone. Someone with severe anxiety may become aware they feel better quicker than expected and someone with mild anxiety may find they need more support, due to other external factors such as level of self-confidence, the degree of change they wish to achieve, and present life situation.

For mild anxiety and depression, three to twelve sessions may be sufficient. 6 or 12-24 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy may be enough to successfully treat a presentation of moderate forms of anxiety while severe forms of depression and anxiety take a minimum of 24 sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy for the best outcome

After each session, you are encouraged to apply the principles you have learned to your daily life and determine if you are comfortable with the progress you are making.

 What is cognitive behavioral therapy and how does it work?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most studied types of behavioral therapy. It is a form of psychotherapeutic approach that helps patients better understand the emotions and feelings that negatively influences their behaviors. The fundamental principle behind the cognitive behavioral therapy is that our actions are governed by our thoughts and feelings. The aim of CBT is to help patients understand that they have control of how they interpret and deal with every situation in their environment despite not having control over every aspect of the world.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly preferred among health professionals and mental health consumers as a short-term treatment option due its affordability and efficacy and has gained popularity in recent years.

Cognitive behavioral therapy works by helping people learn how to recognize and change destructive thought patterns that negatively impact on emotions and behaviors

The main objective is to help patients deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. They are taught how to change these negative patterns to improve their feelings and happiness

There are a number of therapeutic approaches that involve cognitive behavioral therapy that is regularly applied by psychologists and mental health professionals. Examples of these include:

Multimodal therapy: This form of cognitive-behavioral therapy address seven different but interconnected components that influence psychological issues. These components are behavior, cognition, imagery, affect drug/biological factors and interpersonal factors.

Dialectical Behaviour therapy: This type of cognitive-behavioral therapy utilizes strategies such as emotional control and mindfulness to approach behaviors and thinking patterns.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT): This form of cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on recognizing and shaping irrational thoughts and beliefs. By actively addressing these illogical beliefs, we are able to have control over our emotions and happiness.

Cognitive theory: This form of therapy focuses on identifying and altering inaccurate or distorted patterns of thinking, emotional responses, and behaviors.

CBT has been shown to be an effective way of treating a number of different mental health conditions.

In addition to depression or anxiety disorders, cognitive behavior theory can also help people with:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders – such as anorexia and bulimia
  • Sleep problems such as insomnia
  • Addiction problems related to alcohol misuse
  • Anger issues

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also sometimes used to treat people with long-term health conditions, such as:

irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

Cognitive Behavioral Techniques and Exercise for Depression and Anxiety

Graded Exposure: is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy exercise designed to alleviate anxiety and depression through repeated exposure with what is feared. This has been to shown to be among the most effective treatments for any psychological problem. The underlying principle has to do with avoidance of things or stimulus that we dread resulting in increased fear and anxiety. By systematically approaching what you might normally avoid, a significant and lasting reduction in anxiety takes place.

Activity Scheduling: Activity scheduling is another form of cognitive behavioral therapy exercise that helps people participate in behaviors they ordinarily would not engage in. This exercise involves identifying a low-frequency behavior and finding time throughout the week to schedule the behavior to increase its frequency. It is often employed in treatment for depression, as a way of re-introducing rewarding behaviors into people’s daily routines

Imagery Based Exposure: This exercise involves focusing or thinking about a recent event or memory that produced unpleasant or strong negative emotions and analyzing the situation.

Having a mental picture of this negative emotion, especially for a long period of time, can enable you to have control over the stimulus and reduce avoidance coping.


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Ellis, A. (1997). Extending the goals of behavior therapy and of cognitive behavior therapy. Behavior Therapy28(3), 333-339. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7894(97)80078-0

Hurst, K., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. (2018). Family-based treatment with cognitive behavioural therapy for anorexia. Clinical Psychologist. doi: 10.1111/cp.12152

Kwon, S., & Oei, T. (2003). Cognitive change processes in a group cognitive behavior therapy of depression. Journal Of Behavior Therapy And Experimental Psychiatry34(1), 73-85. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7916(03)00021-1

Rush, A., Khatami, M., & Beck, A. (1975). Cognitive and behavior therapy in chronic depression. Behavior Therapy6(3), 398-404. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7894(75)80116-x