Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to treat depression. It is a form of psychotherapy that helps patients understand personal beliefs about their life and how to take better steps to improve their outlook when dealing with personal feelings.  There are two aspects – cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy – that explore thought patterns and actions. Depending on your situation, the therapist will develop an approach to work for you. The patient works with the therapist to identify negative patterns and behaviors that make dealing with situations challenging.


CBT Overview and How It Works

The treatment process includes learning stressors and developing constructive, balanced ways to respond. The end goal is to make it easier to deal with such situations through reducing or eliminating troubling behavior related to depression. There is an online form of this therapy to help patients manage depression symptoms online. CBT can require 10 to 20 sessions as it is considered a short form of therapy compared to other options.

During the sessions, patients explore their current situations to understand possible depression causes. You explore thinking patterns and perceptions that influence depression symptoms. Learning about your depression, you work your way backward by looking into your past, seeking things that may have gone undetected but could be a depression trigger.


Journaling or writing about your thoughts may be required.  You write about events in your life and reactions to them. The events and actions related to them are examined by you and your therapist in detail.  What you learn from your past helps you place actions and thoughts into categories such as:

  • Personalization or taking things too personal, whether it’s thoughts or actions.
  • Filtering thoughts mentally or picking out certain details and dwelling on them.
  • Under or overestimating the significance of something or making too much of a big deal about something.
  • Overlooking or rejecting a positive experience as if it didn’t count for anything.
  • Habitual negative reactions and thoughts.

You work with your therapist to develop positive and healthy ways to respond to situations. Journaling may be required to keep a record of progress as you practice CBT techniques, including learning how to control your thoughts, assess emotional behavior, positive self-talk, and self-evaluation to name a few. Methods are practiced with your therapist and on your own.  You will also practice them in controlled environments.


CBT is Effective with Other Disorders

A variety of disorders is treated with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.  Studies have shown effectiveness in treating people with major depression when compared to medication options. Phobias, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), eating disorders, sleep disorders, schizophrenia, stress, and those coping with antisocial behaviors benefit from CBT. When used with depression, it can be combined with other forms of treatment. Adults, children, and adolescents benefit from this therapy.

While CBT is used to help treat different conditions and disorders, it can be a stressful option. Few find it painful to discuss their past, but it helps you gain courage because some exercises involve doing things you didn’t think was possible. It can help you get comfortable in social settings and confront feelings that have caused your depression. Over time, you will learn how to alter your response to situations and stress so you can deal with anxiety and adversity constructively.


Experts Support CBT with Ongoing Research

More evidence is surfacing to support cognitive behavioral therapy through effective results achieved by others being treated for different conditions.  A study looked at CBT as being a potential alternative treatment option to medication for mood disorders and depression.  It seems to have results that stand out more than other forms of psychotherapy (not to say other therapies are not as helpful), but more evidence is visible because results from this therapy have been further researched.

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