What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Written by Andrew Gorrill

UpLift is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been around for over 30 years.

With more evidence supporting its effectiveness than any other psychological treatment in existence, CBT is considered the gold standard in alleviating depression, and is beneficial for a multitude of other mental health issues.

The principles of CBT

Traditional talk therapy often focuses on unraveling past traumas, and providing the client with a safe space to express themselves.

While CBT doesn’t deny the importance of the past, it focuses on the present.

  • CBT focuses on current thoughts and behaviors. CBT is based on the scientifically-supported discovery that changing current thoughts and behaviors is an effective path towards improved mental health, whether the root-causes of distress are discovered or not.
  • CBT believes healthier habits can be learned. CBT follows the principle that behaviors, thoughts, and emotional responses are learned, and therefore, healthier methods can be learned through specific techniques and activities.

CBT disrupts the causes of unhappiness by helping people learn new, more helpful patterns of thought and behavior.

Characteristics of CBT

CBT is collaborative. A CBT therapist works with the client to figure out their goals and how to reach them, rather than tell the client what their goals should be.

CBT is more focused on the client than on the client-therapist relationship. In traditional talk-therapy, which is based on the client exploring deep and sensitive issues with their therapist, the client-therapist relationship is considered of extreme importance.

While a good relationship is necessary for CBT as well, CBT is focused on helping the client learn the skills to overcome their challenges themselves, and therefore the relationship with the therapist is of secondary importance. (This is one reason CBT is such an excellent therapy for use in online depression apps, like UpLift.)

CBT uses ‘homework.’ Because CBT is about teaching the client skills, rather than relying on the skills of the therapist, CBT utilizes extensive out-of-session assignments, asking the client to apply and practice concepts and follow through on plans made in-session.

CBT is short. Compared to other therapies, CBT is usually remarkably short, usually between 10 and 20 sessions. This is partly because of CBT’s goal and skill-oriented nature, and partly because of its reliance on homework.

Because of the time out-of-session spent on homework, the client spends many more hours engaged in work towards wellness than if they only engaged when in a session with their therapist.

Does CBT work?

CBT is used to help people dealing with significant difficulties improve their lives. From people who just want to break a bad habit, to people experiencing depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sleep problems, chronic pain, and more—hundreds of randomized control studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of CBT in treating all sorts of problems.

CBT for depression has more evidence supporting it than any other type of psychological treatment in existence. CBT works.

About the Author
Andrew has a diverse background, ranging from Chinese language and culture to organic agriculture. He occupies a variety of roles at UpLift, including customer service and project management.