Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach which emphasizes the use of mindfulness to uncover the hidden mental processes which influence negative thoughts and behaviors.
CBT is considered an active intervention which is goal-directed. Typically, a therapist and a client will choose a specific problem to solve. A client with chronic anxiety issues would explain the situation to the therapist; together, they would choose a goal (overcoming the anxiety) and implement a plan for reaching that goal.
What differentiates CBT from more traditional forms of therapy is its scientific and theoretical basis. It is a combination (as its name suggests) of cognitive therapy and behavior therapy. The two complement each other. While cognitive therapy focuses on the client’s underlying thoughts that lead to problematic states of mind such as anxiety, behavior therapy analyzes learned responses in a client which the therapist helps to deconstruct and change through operant conditioning, modelling, and similar exercises.
The treatment of anxiety disorders with CBT involves examining the thoughts and feelings associated with the feelings of anxiousness. Those who suffer from panic attacks learn to observe the bodily sensations produced by the attacks and develop successful coping strategies for overcoming the anxiety and panic.
Individuals who suffer from certain types of anxiety, such as performance anxiety or social anxiety, may benefit from the controlled use of exposure therapy. This type of therapy involves the gradual exposure of the client to the situation which triggers the anxiety.
What makes CBT so successful is its cognitive and behavioral basis. The methodology encourages the client to examine the underlying thoughts and feelings which produce the anxiety; thus, CBT allows the client to get at the source of the problem rather than merely treating the symptoms. For this reason, we recommend CBT or other types of therapy for the treatment of all anxiety issues or disorders.
Finding a Therapist
There are many ways to find a good therapist who can help you overcome your anxiety. The best place to start is on Google. There are many resources which aggregate data about therapists; this data often includes reviews and ratings for therapists.
Alternatively, you can use a therapist search database, like this one found on Psychology Today. There are a few other types of therapist databases, but we have found this one to be the most informative and up-to-date.
When searching for a CBT therapist, make sure to filter your search results by specifying CBT as a criterion. It may also be helpful to contact the therapist directly and ask them how much experience they have in using CBT to treat anxiety. Qualified and ethical therapists are more than happy to discuss their previous experience.
Most therapists accept insurance. However, if you are uninsured or if your insurance does not cover mental health with the therapist you have chosen, there are a number of free clinics and resources for you. Click here to visit the US Department of Health and Human Services mental health treatment center locator.
If you do not wish to go the therapy route, you can also purchase a CBT workbook. While not the same as actual therapy, these books can be useful tools for understanding and overcoming anxiety. Below, we have listed a few different books which target different types of anxiety.
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety: A Step-by-Step Program
The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook for Teens: CBT and ACT Skills to Help You Build Social Confidence (Instant Help Book for Teens)
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)
The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses (Stefan G. Hofmann, Ph.D., Anu Asnaani, M.A., Imke J.J. Vonk, M.A., Alice T. Sawyer, M.A., and Angela Fang, M.A.):
The efficacy of CBT for anxiety disorders was consistently strong, despite some notable heterogeneity in the specific anxiety pathology, comparison conditions, follow-up data, and severity level. Large effect sizes were reported for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder, and at least medium effect sizes for social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Medium to large CBT treatment effects were reported for somatoform disorders, such as hypochondriasis and body dysmorphic disorder. However, more studies using larger trials and greater sample sizes are needed to draw more conclusive findings with regard to CBT’s relative efficacy in comparison to other active treatments.
Our review of randomized placebo-controlled trials indicates that CBT is efficacious for adult anxiety disorders. There is, however, considerable room for improvement. Also, more studies need to include intent-to-treat analyses in the future.
In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Ben Martin, Psy.D.
- Low Cost Therapy for Anxiety
- Panic Away: A Personal Review
- The Free CBT Workbook Mega List
- My Firsthand Experience with the Panic Miracle Program: A Personal Review
- Choosing a Therapist for Anxiety: An Essential Checklist
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