Al Soor Specialist Clinic

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely practiced and evidence-based approach to psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and Behaviours.


Here is an easy-to-understand overview of how CBT works:


  1. Collaborative and Goal-Oriented:
    • CBT is a collaborative process between the therapist and the individual seeking therapy.
    • The therapist and client work together to identify specific goals for therapy and develop a treatment plan to achieve those goals.
  2. Understanding the Connection Between Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours:
    • CBT operates on the principle that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected.
    • Negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions and maladaptive behaviours, perpetuating a cycle of distress.
  3. Identifying Automatic Thoughts:
    • Automatic thoughts are rapid, unconscious thoughts that occur in response to situations or triggers.
    • In CBT, individuals learn to identify and challenge automatic thoughts that contribute to distressing emotions or behaviours.
  4. Challenging Cognitive Distortions:
    • Cognitive distortions are irrational or exaggerated thoughts that contribute to negative emotions.
    • CBT helps individuals recognize and challenge cognitive distortions, such as black-and-white thinking, catastrophizing, and personalization.
  5. Replacing Negative Thoughts with Realistic and Balanced Thinking:
    • Once cognitive distortions are identified, individuals learn to replace them with more realistic and balanced thoughts.
    • This process involves examining evidence for and against negative thoughts and generating alternative interpretations of situations.
  6. Behavioural Activation:
    • Behavioural activation is a key component of CBT that focuses on increasing engagement in pleasurable and meaningful activities.
    • By scheduling and participating in enjoyable activities, individuals can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  7. Exposure and Response Prevention:
    • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a technique used to treat anxiety disorders, such as phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
    • Individuals gradually confront feared situations or stimuli while refraining from engaging in compulsive Behaviours, allowing them to learn that their fears are irrational and diminish over time.
  8. Skill-Building:
    • CBT teaches individuals practical skills and strategies to cope with distressing emotions and situations.
    • Skills may include relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, assertiveness training, and communication skills.
  9. Homework Assignments:
    • Homework assignments are an integral part of CBT, allowing individuals to practice and apply skills learned in therapy to real-life situations.
    • Homework may include keeping thought records, practicing relaxation exercises, or engaging in exposure tasks.
  10. Tracking Progress:
    • Throughout the course of therapy, individuals and therapists track progress toward treatment goals.
    • Regular assessment and feedback help identify areas of improvement and modify treatment strategies as needed.
  11. Focus on the Present and Future:
    • While CBT may explore past experiences and their impact on current functioning, the focus is primarily on the present and future.
    • The emphasis is on identifying and changing current thoughts and Behaviours to improve functioning and well-being.
  12. Empowering Individuals:
    • CBT empowers individuals to take an active role in their own treatment and recovery.
    • By teaching practical skills and providing tools for managing symptoms, individuals develop a sense of control and self-efficacy.
  13. Flexibility and Adaptability:
    • CBT is a flexible and adaptable approach that can be tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of each individual.
    • Therapists may incorporate different techniques and interventions based on the presenting problem and individual characteristics.
  14. Integration of Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Approaches:
    • Some forms of CBT, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), integrate mindfulness and acceptance-based principles.
    • These approaches emphasize present-moment awareness, acceptance of internal experiences, and values-driven action.
  15. Maintenance and Relapse Prevention:
    • CBT includes strategies for maintaining treatment gains and preventing relapse after therapy ends.
    • Individuals learn to recognize early warning signs of relapse and implement coping strategies to prevent recurrence of symptoms.
  16. Collaborative Decision-Making:
    • Decisions about the course of therapy and specific interventions are made collaboratively between the therapist and the individual receiving treatment.
    • Therapists provide guidance and expertise, while individuals have autonomy and input in the therapeutic process.


In summary, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a collaborative, goal-oriented approach to psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and Behaviours.


Through practical skills, challenging cognitive distortions, and engaging in exposure-based techniques, individuals learn to manage distressing emotions, improve coping strategies, and achieve lasting change.


CBT emphasizes empowerment, flexibility, and the importance of collaboration between therapist and client in promoting positive outcomes.