What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? 5 Definitions


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy which has become a crucial part of psychology. While it was originally formulated as a treatment for depression, it is now involved in the treatment of many different disorders. Below are five definitions of CBT from several different psychology organizations, and one traditional dictionary.

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, CBT is “a common type of talk therapy. You work with a mental health counselor in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.” 

  • According to the Beck Institute, CBT is “a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior.” 

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on exploring relationships among a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. During CBT a therapist will actively work with a person to uncover unhealthy patterns of thought and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.”

  • According to the National Health Service (NHS) of England, “CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. You’re shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel. Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.”

  • Finally, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, CBT is “psychotherapy that combines cognitive therapy with behavior therapy by identifying faulty or maladaptive patterns of thinking, emotional response, or behavior and substituting them with desirable patterns of thinking, emotional response, or behavior.” 


These definitions have a lot of overlap, in general we may define CBT as a structured type of psychotherapy that involves dealing with a client's beliefs in order to change the way they think and react to the things happening around them. Several of these definitions also stress the fact that CBT is focused on current thoughts and events rather than those in the past.