• Kevin Kenealy

The Basic Tenets of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy



Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment approach that helps you recognize negative or unhelpful thought and behavior patterns. Many experts consider it the gold standard of psychotherapy. CBT aims to help you identify and explore the ways your emotions and thoughts can affect your actions.

· CBT is based on an ever-evolving formulation of the patient and her problems in cognitive terms.

· CBT requires a good client-therapist relationship.

· CBT emphasizes collaboration and active participation.

· CBT is goal-oriented, and problem focused.

· CBT initially emphasizes the present.

· CBT is educative; it aims to teach the client to be his/her own therapist and emphasizes relapse prevention.

· CBT aims to be time limited.

· CBT sessions are structured.

· CBT teaches patients to identify, evaluate, and respond to their dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs.

· CBT uses a variety of techniques to change thinking, mood, and behavior.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy values and empowers the individual to take control of his/her life through psychoeducation with a vast array of techniques specific to individual diagnosis. Unconditional self-regard is extended to include the unconditional regard of others, which is congruent with social work’s strength-based values. The goal of CBT is to allow a client to take control of his/her problems and to manage life in a healthy adaptive way.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy assumes that both the individual and the environment are of fundamental importance and that therapy outside of a holistic approach would be an injustice to the client. Fixing cognitive dysfunctions is not possible without the involvement of behavior and fixing behavioral dysfunctions is not possible without the involvement of cognition.


The cognitive model hypothesizes that people’s thoughts and feelings are not determined by a situation, but by their interpretation and construction of the situation. Recognizing this discrepancy, CBT seeks to modify the dysfunctional core beliefs that result in automatic thoughts which trigger emotion in any given situation. Behavioral methods are often used to accomplish this task and education components are often coupled with client homework for successful treatment.

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