Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging, changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviours, improving emotional regulation. It helps develop personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. Originally designed to treat depression its uses have expanded to include treatment of a number of mental health conditions. CBT includes a number of cognitive or behaviour psychotherapies that treat defined psychopathologies using evidence-based techniques and strategies.
CBT is based on the combination of the basic principles from behavioural and cognitive psychology. It differs from historical approaches to psychotherapy, such as the psychoanalytic approach where the therapist looks for the unconscious meaning behind the behaviours and then formulates a diagnosis. Instead, CBT is a “problem-focused” and “action-oriented” form of therapy, meaning it is used to treat specific problems related to a diagnosed mental disorder. The therapist’s role is to assist the client in finding and practicing effective strategies to address the identified goals and decrease symptoms of the disorder. CBT is based on the belief that thought distortions and maladaptive behaviours play a role in the development and maintenance of psychological disorders and that symptoms and associated distress can be reduced by teaching new information-processing skills and coping mechanisms.