What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a therapeutic approach which focuses on assessing an individual’s thoughts and actions to facilitate change in their lives. Specifically, CBT views our feelings and behaviours as a direct result of our thoughts, rather than external stimulants such as people and events (National Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 2010).

Thoughts –

Those little phrases, beliefs and ideas we hold to be true. Thoughts constantly run through our minds. Chances are we don’t consciously notice most of them, and are quite surprised at their messages when we sit and take stock of the messages we are receiving from ourselves.

Actions –

The things we do. Often we wait for motivation to strike us in order to pick up a new habit, or change an old habit. Motivation increases when we begin to actively initiate change. It’s easier to get up off the couch to exercise if we did yesterday.

Feelings –

Our emotions and state of being. Feelings are hidden things we often don’t recognize or take the time to label as we continually move through life. It’s only when we really slow ourselves down, and take the time to look at how we’re feeling in a specific moment where we find ourselves surprised by the strength of our feelings.

iStock_000004022669_SmallWhile our “hollywood” perception of therapy may involve lying on a therapist’s couch and sharing about our childhood for years, CBT takes a distinctively different approach. An individual being treated through CBT will be asked to take a very active role in their therapy, learning skills, changing behaviours, and completing homework between sessions (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, n.d.). CBT focuses on the present, and while this will involve examining thoughts and beliefs we learned as children, the therapy focus will stay on how this is affecting the individual at the current time (BICBT, n.d.). CBT requires an individual to unlearn dysfunctional thinking patterns, and replace these patterns with realistic, functional patterns of thought (NACBT, 2010). While the therapist will provide empathy throughout the session, their role isn’t to only help you feel better for the time being. They will teach you to use tools, as well as encourage you to challenge your thinking and conduct behavioural experiments to test if what you believe is indeed true (BICBT, n.d.). This will allow you to come to your own conclusions and ultimately facilitate long lasting change.

CBT has been scientifically tested and proven an effective treatment for a wide variety of disorders including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders, and habit disorders (BICBT, n.d.). While heavily dependent on the presenting issues and the client’s readiness for change, the National Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (2010), states the average number of sessions with CBT as 16. CBT is time-limited, which means the client and therapist will decide together when it is the right time to terminate therapy (BICBT, n.d.).

Many different techniques are used with CBT, allowing the therapist and client to find the technique that fits best for the client. Still, all of these techniques are focused around thoughts, actions, and behaviours, teaching the client tools and skills, and allowing for long-lasting change.


Karyn Zuidhof, MA – Psychologist

Karyn Zuidhof1Karyn is a Registered Psychologist, who primarily practices from a Cognitive Behavioural perspective.  She has experience helping people with a variety of concerns including, but not limited to stress, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, parenting, and relationships.  She enjoys teaching clients new skills, and sharpening the skills they already have to overcome obstacles in their lives.




Beck Institute for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. (n.d.). What is CBT? Retrieved July 1, 2014 from http://www.BICBT, n.d.institute.org/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/.

NACBT National Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. (2010).Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. Retrieved July 1, 2014 from http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm.

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