What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Amy Barczy is a former brand journalist who authored...

If you see a mental health professional or are considering seeing one, chances are you may have heard of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered the “gold standard” of talk therapy. It is effective in helping people work through a wide range of behavioral health disorders, including depression, substance use disorders, eating disorders and to help people address stressful situations or interpersonal conflicts.
According to the American Psychological Association, numerous studies have shown cognitive behavioral therapy to be as effective as – or more effective – than other forms of psychological therapy or psychiatric medications.

How it works

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the premise that a person’s beliefs hold the control of mental disorders and psychological distress. It uses therapeutic strategies to address “maladaptive beliefs” – a person’s point of view about themselves and the world that is negatively biased, inaccurate and rigid. These views are based, in part, in learned patterns of unhelpful behavior. By working through these beliefs and developing coping skills, a person can change their emotional distress and problematic behaviors. 
The focus during cognitive behavioral therapy is on developing the coping skills and mental ability to manage current issues in a person’s life so that they can move forward. 
Mental health professionals, including psychotherapists and therapists, work with individuals in multiple sessions to first address their patterns of thinking. Sessions are individualized and will be different for each person, but may include:
  • Recognizing personal ways of thinking that are creating problems
  • Understanding the behavior and motivation of others
  • Developing problem-solving skills
  • Growing self-confidence
Ultimately, the goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to change a person’s behavior to improve their situation. Depending on an individual’s needs and issues, mental health professionals can employ a variety of strategies. These may include:
  • Facing fears
  • Role playing to prepare for interactions with others 
  • Learning ways to calm the mind and body
In addition to the work mental health professionals undergo with individuals during a session, there may be additional exercises – like journaling or practicing coping skills – that individuals may be asked to do on their own time in order to enhance their progress.

When is cognitive behavioral therapy used?

If you are working with a mental health professional, they may use cognitive behavioral therapy to help you overcome emotional challenges including resolving relationship conflicts, improving communication skills, coping with grief or loss, overcoming emotional trauma from abuse or violence, managing a medical illness or chronic physical symptoms and learning to manage stressful life situations.
This type of therapy may also be sued to help individuals with mental health disorders, including:
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sexual disorders
  • Sleep disorders

Find a mental health professional 

Mental health professionals can help you address both emotional challenges and mental health disorders.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below: 
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382 
  • A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7. 
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982 
  • Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider. 
  • Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association