Cognitive Therapy

A form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns to improve emotional well-being.


Cognitive Therapy, also known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. It is based on the idea that our thoughts, rather than external factors like people, situations, or events, are the primary influence on our emotions and behaviors. Cognitive Therapy helps individuals identify, challenge, and modify dysfunctional or distorted thoughts and beliefs to improve their emotional well-being and mental health.

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Cognitive Therapy was developed by American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. Beck noticed that his patients often had an internal dialogue going on in their minds, almost as if they were talking to themselves. He realized that the link between thoughts and feelings was very important. Beck found that identifying and evaluating these automatic thoughts was a key process in overcoming difficulties. From this insight, he developed Cognitive Therapy, which has since become a widely practiced and researched form of psychotherapy.


  1. Treats Multiple Conditions Cognitive Therapy is effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and substance abuse.
  2. Enhances Problem-Solving Skills Cognitive Therapy teaches individuals to approach problems in a more adaptive and realistic manner, enhancing their problem-solving abilities.
  3. Improves Emotional Regulation By modifying negative thought patterns, Cognitive Therapy helps individuals better regulate their emotions and reduce the intensity of negative feelings.
  4. Promotes Self-Awareness Cognitive Therapy encourages individuals to become more aware of their thought processes, helping them recognize the impact of their thoughts on their emotions and behaviors.
  5. Provides Long-Term Benefits The skills learned in Cognitive Therapy can be applied to future challenges, providing individuals with long-term tools for maintaining mental well-being.
  6. Complements Other Treatments Cognitive Therapy can be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as medication, to enhance overall treatment effectiveness.

How It Works

Cognitive therapy works by helping individuals identify and change negative or distorted thought patterns that contribute to emotional distress. Through structured sessions with a therapist, patients learn to recognize and challenge irrational beliefs, replacing them with more balanced and realistic thoughts. This process involves techniques such as cognitive restructuring, where patients examine the evidence for and against their thoughts, and behavioral experiments, where they test the validity of their beliefs through real-world experiences. By modifying thoughts and beliefs, cognitive therapy aims to improve emotional well-being and promote more adaptive behaviors.


While cognitive therapy can be highly effective, it requires active participation and commitment from the patient. Individuals must be willing to openly discuss their thoughts and emotions and engage in homework assignments between sessions. Some people may find it challenging to confront deeply ingrained beliefs or to consistently apply the techniques learned in therapy. Additionally, cognitive therapy may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with severe mental health conditions or those who have difficulty introspecting or articulating their thoughts. It is important to work with a qualified therapist who can assess individual needs and tailor the approach accordingly.

How Much It Costs

The cost of cognitive therapy can vary depending on factors such as the therapist's qualifications, location, and insurance coverage. On average, a single session can range from $75 to $200 or more. Many insurance plans cover a portion of the cost, but patients may still be responsible for copays or deductibles. Some therapists offer sliding-scale fees based on income, and low-cost or free options may be available through community clinics or non-profit organizations. Overall, the total cost of cognitive therapy will depend on the number and frequency of sessions required to achieve the desired outcomes.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual or online cognitive therapy has become increasingly popular, offering several advantages over traditional in-person sessions. Online therapy allows for greater flexibility and convenience, as patients can access sessions from the comfort of their own home or any location with a stable internet connection. This eliminates the need for travel time and expenses, making therapy more accessible for those with busy schedules or limited mobility. Online platforms also provide a wider selection of therapists, allowing patients to find a good fit regardless of geographic location. However, in-person therapy may be preferred by some individuals who value face-to-face interaction or have concerns about technology or privacy. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and in-person cognitive therapy depends on individual preferences and circumstances.


Cognitive therapists typically hold advanced degrees in psychology, counseling, or a related field. The most common certification is the Certified Cognitive Therapist (CCT) credential, which is awarded by the Academy of Cognitive Therapy (ACT). To obtain this certification, therapists must have a master's or doctoral degree in a mental health field, complete extensive training in cognitive therapy, and demonstrate competence through case submissions and a written examination. Other relevant certifications include the Diplomate in Cognitive Therapy (DCT) from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). It is important to verify that a therapist has the appropriate credentials and experience before beginning cognitive therapy.

Complementary Practices

Cognitive therapy can be complemented by other practices that promote mental well-being, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, journaling, and regular exercise. These practices can help individuals develop greater self-awareness, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall mood. Incorporating these complementary practices alongside cognitive therapy can enhance the effectiveness of treatment and support long-term mental health.

Practitioner Types

Cognitive therapy is typically provided by licensed mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), and licensed professional counselors (LPCs). These practitioners have received specialized training in cognitive therapy techniques and are qualified to assess and treat various mental health conditions. Some primary care physicians and nurse practitioners may also have training in cognitive therapy and can provide basic interventions or referrals to specialists.

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  • Q: What is cognitive therapy and how does it work?

    • A: Cognitive therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative or distorted thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to emotional distress. By modifying these thoughts, individuals can improve their mood, reduce symptoms of mental health conditions, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Q: What conditions can cognitive therapy treat?

    • A: Cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and substance abuse. It can also be helpful for managing stress, improving self-esteem, and enhancing overall well-being.
  • Q: How long does cognitive therapy typically last?

    • A: The duration of cognitive therapy varies depending on the individual's needs and the severity of their condition. Short-term therapy may last between 6 to 20 sessions, while more complex cases may require longer-term treatment. Sessions are typically held once a week, with each session lasting approximately 50-60 minutes.
  • Q: Can cognitive therapy be done online or through teletherapy?

    • A: Yes, cognitive therapy can be effectively delivered through online platforms or teletherapy. Many mental health professionals now offer virtual sessions, allowing individuals to receive treatment from the comfort of their own homes. Online cognitive therapy has been shown to be as effective as in-person therapy for many conditions.
  • Q: What are some techniques used in cognitive therapy?

    • A: Cognitive therapy employs various techniques to help individuals identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs. These techniques may include cognitive restructuring (examining and reframing thoughts), behavioral experiments (testing the validity of beliefs through action), guided discovery (exploring thoughts and emotions through questioning), and journaling (recording and reflecting on thoughts and experiences).


Cognitive therapy is a powerful tool for promoting mental well-being and treating a wide range of psychological conditions. By focusing on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, cognitive therapy helps individuals develop healthier patterns of thinking and coping. When combined with complementary practices and delivered by trained professionals, cognitive therapy can lead to significant improvements in mood, functioning, and overall quality of life. As awareness of mental health continues to grow, cognitive therapy remains a vital and accessible treatment option for those seeking to enhance their emotional well-being and build resilience in the face of life's challenges.