Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the relationship between thought, emotion and behavior to address different mental disorders. In this article we deepen its fundamental principles, highlighting the points that differentiate it from other currents.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Over the years, psychology has taken a variety of approaches to understanding and addressing human functioning. Each of them with their own theoretical approaches and practical applications. For more than three decades, cognitive behavioral therapy has been confirmed as the psychotherapeutic orientation with the most evidence of its effectiveness.

The cognitive behavioral therapy is applied with excellent results to the most diverse problems. It is, in fact, an extremely efficient and flexible option. It guarantees significant changes in a limited time and the plurality of techniques it contains gives it the flexibility to adapt to specific problems and to the individual.

Patient with therapist

Origins of cognitive behavioral therapy

Over the years there have been several psychological currents that have prevailed at a given moment and then give way to other approaches.

Two of these (behaviorism and cognitivism) are at the origin of the therapy we are dealing with today. First, therefore, it is necessary to understand what they consist of.


Behaviorism focuses its interest on visible behavior. Its object of study consists solely of the behaviors that the individual produces and that can be observed and measured.

According to this current, behaviors are responses to certain stimuli and increase or decrease their frequency according to the consequences. We can therefore modify a person’s behavior by varying the relationships between stimulus, response and consequence.

For example: the subject with a dog phobia has associated dogs with fear, so he runs away in their presence. If we manage to break this association, the dogs will cease to be an adverse stimulus and the subject will stop running away. On the other hand, if we want a child to eat more vegetables, we should reward him every time he does.


This psychological approach focuses on the study of cognitions, or thoughts or mental processes. He is interested in understanding the mechanism created by the human being after receiving information: how he processes it and how he interprets it.

The foundation of cognitivism is that we do not perceive reality as it is, but as we are. Each of us, with our own internal processes, gives a different meaning to the reality we perceive.

For example: you call a friend and they won’t answer you. You might think he hasn’t heard the call or doesn’t want to talk to you because he doesn’t like it. The reality is the same, but the inner process is very different.

Psychologist in session

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is presented as a combination of the two previous currents, relating thoughts and behaviors. It states that there is an intrinsic relationship between thought, emotion and behavior and that changes in any of these three components will affect the others.

In this sense, it employs very different techniques, aimed at modifying one of the three elements, knowing that in this way it will affect the human being in its entirety.


  • Cognitive restructuring is a technique that consists in helping the subject to change their beliefs or thoughts. To this end, he is invited to evaluate the veracity of his thoughts and to seek more adaptive alternatives. After changing the way reality is interpreted, the way we feel and act also changes.
  • Exposure is a technique aimed at modifying behavior. The subject is encouraged to stop avoiding or escaping what he fears and to face it. When he changes his behavior and faces the situation, he proves its harmlessness; immediately change his beliefs and emotions about it.
  • Relaxation techniques focus on emotions. In particular, they help the person to independently manage their emotions and their level of activation. As emotions change, thoughts become less catastrophic and behavior shifts from avoidance to coping.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is therefore a comprehensive, flexible and effective approach. It achieves major improvements in a short time and for a wide variety of ailments and issues. It is also a question of psychological orientation with more experimental evidence that corroborates its effectiveness. However, when it comes to choosing the therapeutic approach, it is advisable to inquire about the alternatives available and choose the one in which you recognize yourself most.

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