A Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Keegan Warrington
November 8, 2021

In 2019, around 51 million Americans experienced mental illness. This means roughly 1 in 5 Americans are struggling with the symptoms and effects of mental disorders which often hinder day-to-day living. The good news is services addressing mental disorders are available, and they are proven to work in restoring and improving a person’s mental health.

One proven approach to address mental health issues is Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy. It is an umbrella term that describes the various psychological and behavioral therapies used in treating mental health disorders like phobias, addiction, and anxiety. It relies on the idea that talking about the things that are distressing for us will help in alleviating emotional troubles brought by those distressing things. One of the most common types of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.

The amount of information available may be quite daunting to process, especially if you are new to this type of therapy. We created this resource guide to help you answer the question: ‘What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?’ and provide you with a general overview of what CBT is, how it’s done, and its benefits.  

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a combination of two approaches, namely Cognitive Therapy and Behavioral Therapy. CBT is one of the highly studied treatments and one of the most commonly used in addressing a variety of disorders. Thus, methods may differ per person but the core idea behind this therapy remains the same: our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all closely connected. Together, they create a complex web that has a paramount impact on our overall health.

The main focus of this treatment is to help people deal with specific problems they may have. Specifically, this short-term treatment teaches people to identify and change destructive or unhelpful thought patterns that influence their behavior. Simply speaking, it will help us learn the mindset, that while we cannot control the things and situations that surrounds us, we can definitely take control of how we deal with these uncertain and uncontrollable things in our world.

This particular type of treatment differs from other psychotherapies by being a problem-oriented strategy that concentrates on current problems and finding solutions for them. It does not deal with the past as much as other therapies, and it is much more concerned with helping people help themselves. Most importantly, individuals should be able to get back to their lives without therapy as soon as possible after undergoing this short-term treatment.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has three main components: thought patterns, behavioral patterns, and setting new goals.

  • Thought Patterns: The first component is identifying problematic beliefs. Often called functional analysis, this section of the therapy is for forming a clear idea of your own thoughts, attitudes, and expectations. The main goal is to identify, learn about, and change the false beliefs you have about things.
  • Behavioral Patterns: This component is based on ‘behaviorism’ theory, which assumes that our behaviors are learned and therefore can be unlearned or learned in a new way. This part of the therapy aims to find out whether your patterns of behavior intensify your problems or make your life difficult. Like destructive thoughts, destructive behaviors need to be identified and changed.
  • New Goals: After identifying all the cognitive and behavioral components, setting new goals like developing new coping skills is the next component. For example, a person suffering from substance abuse disorder may start using their new skills to avoid social situations that might trigger relapses. New goals can be set in a progressive manner, depending on the individual’s case or situation.

To better understand the interplay among these components, below is an example:

You see somebody you know on the street and say hello, but they do not say hello back. Your own reaction to that very much depends on how you assess the situation:

Now that we know more about the components of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, let’s proceed to the stages and what to expect in therapy sessions.


Generally, a session of this therapy is structured, which means it has a set end point. It usually lasts for an hour and is done once a week. Sessions vary depending on the treatment plan or the therapist, but here are the common steps:

  1. Working with your therapist in understanding the most troubling situations or experiences in your life such as medical conditions, grief of bereavement, or symptoms of a mental illness
  2. Learning and acknowledging your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about these troubling or difficult experiences
  3. Understanding and identifying if your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are inaccurate or negative
  4. Finding ways to challenge these destructive or inaccurate thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (i.e. ask yourself: Is it true? So what?)
  5. Pointing out how you react and behave based on the negative beliefs and how you can change them
  6. Find ways to think, feel, and act that do not harm you or make your situation difficult

During Your First Session

Your first session is often an opportunity for you to know your therapist’s processes, approaches, and other important information (i.e. type of therapy, number of sessions per week, etc). Your first session will likely be dedicated to your therapist gathering information about you and your concerns that you want to work on. You and your therapist might also talk about other treatments and medications that will help your recovery. It may take a few sessions for your therapist to fully grasp your situation, but do not be afraid to switch to another therapist if you feel uncomfortable during your first session. Having a good rapport or ‘fit’ with your therapist will be valuable in getting the most out of your sessions.

Benefits Of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Long-term Outcome

One of the major benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is its lasting positive effect on patients. Studies show that individuals with problematic substance use who engaged in this therapy are less likely to experience relapse than those who did not.


CBT is relatively more expensive initially. However, the cumulative cost of continued medications is still way more expensive. The enduring positive effect of this therapy contributes to its cost-effectiveness. Group-based sessions are also another factor.

Apart from the long-term positive effects and cost-effectiveness, this therapy encourages patients to be actively involved in their recovery and improvement. By engaging in this therapy, you learn and develop skills that will enable you to

  • Feel empowered to lead your own life while living to the fullest.
  • See and change unhealthy thinking patterns
  • Develop healthier coping behaviors and responses
  • Recognize unhealthy or illogical beliefs and when to make changes
  • Improve overall mental and emotional states

By taking an active part in recovery, patients feel more hopeful, confident, rational, and level-headed even when faced with challenging scenarios.

Where And How Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Used

Cognitive Behavior Therapy has been integrated in treatments for depression, anxiety, trauma related disorders, and OCD. Apart from these, it can also be used to address:

  • Stress
  • Phobias
  • Addiction and substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Anger and aggression

Cognitive Behavior Therapy best suits individuals who are comfortable with introspection. If you are willing to spend time and effort in analyzing and reflecting on yourself, then this therapy might be a good choice for you. Although self-analysis can be a difficult task, it presents a great opportunity to learn and understand your internal states better and how they affect your outward behavior. This therapy is also an optimal choice for those who are looking for short-term rehabilitation.

All in all, It is common to experience feelings and thoughts that intensify or add to our problematic beliefs about ourselves and the world. These thoughts and feelings often result in problematic behaviors that negatively affect relationships, career, school, and overall day-to-day living. The main goal of this therapy is to identify, reshape, and change these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for you to be able to live your life to the full.

Summing It Up

If you are looking for a psychosocial service to be used in combination with TMS, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common choice. Research shows that combining TMS Therapy with psychotherapy and treatment approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy results in improved and more sustainable outcomes. Roots TMS offers this therapy through our sister company, Roots Through Recovery, which is located in the same building.

Why choose Roots? Here at Roots TMS, we offer cutting edge treatment while providing the highest level of safety and support to our patients. Our treatment team is here to help you guide you on your journey to recovery and wellness. Come visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807, or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.

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Keegan Warrington