Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used forms of therapy due to its effectiveness in treating a wide variety of mental health issues.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of mental health treatment that is used to help identify and change the negative thought patterns and behaviors that may contribute to a wide array of mental health issues. CBT is often used to treat mental health conditions such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders. This modality is utilized in a wide variety of therapy settings–including Intensive Outpatient (IOP) programs–because of its efficacy in helping people recognize and shift the patterns that are holding them back from healing.

The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, identify the thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to their ongoing struggles, and learn how to change and reframe these thoughts and behaviors. A cognitive behavioral therapist will help clients align their thoughts and actions with their mental health goals. We use these techniques in supported groups, individual therapy, and family therapy. Virtual cognitive behavioral therapy-informed groups, plus virtual one-on-one CBT therapy, is a key component of our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). 

According to the American Psychological Association, CBT is grounded in the following main principles: 

  1. Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking and negative thought patterns.
  2. Psychological struggles are based, in part, on learned patterns of problematic behavior.
  3. People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.
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What can CBT help with? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy shines a light on the ways your thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior might be linked to ongoing mental health struggles. Unpacking these cognitive distortions can help you better understand how your thoughts can affect your mood and behavior and how your behavior can affect your thoughts and mood.

Cognitive behavioral therapists are trained to support you through:

  1. Challenging and changing your negative thoughts 
  2. Managing your mental health disorder
  3. Dealing with difficult emotions 
  4. Improving your relationships
  5. Improving your self-confidence and self-esteem
  6. Coping with stress
  7. Cognitive restructuring 
Teen practicing CBT with their therapist

CBT can help people who have been diagnosed with:

  1. Schizophrenia and other related mood disorders
  2. Major depressive disorder
  3. Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and panic disorders
  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder
  5. Body and gender dysphoria

Cognitive behavioral therapy is even more effective when used in combination with other types of talk therapy and, if needed, psychiatric care. Other types of therapy that may be used in tandem with CBT include DBT skills, exposure therapy, and motivational interviewing –– all of which are modalities practiced at Charlie Health.

What are cognitive distortions? 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion), and how we behave (action) are all interconnected. When cognition, emotions, or actions are distorted, it can skew how we see ourselves and the world. 

We all experience cognitive distortions to some extent. These distortions can negatively affect your relationships and how you feel about yourself, but cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify and move past them.

Common examples of cognitive distortions that a cognitive behavioral therapist can help you resolve include: 


Always thinking, “What will go wrong?” and never, “What could go right?”

Polarized thinking

Ignoring the nuance in conflict and only seeing the extremes in a situation. Polarized thinking is also referred to as “black and white” or “all or nothing” thinking

Control fallacies

Assuming that complex conflict or trauma has one single reason or source, such as “It’s entirely their fault!” or “This is all on me” 

Fallacy of fairness

Expecting life to always be fair


Using one experience to inform what you think will always happen, particularly negative ones

Emotional reasoning

Assuming that your emotions are universal facts

Fallacy of change

Expecting people to change or assuming this change will resolve all conflicts 


Judging yourself or others for not adhering to tight, personal, or even arbitrary “rules”


Expecting the worst, dismissing the positive

Heaven’s reward fallacy

Similar to martyrdom–assuming that self-sacrifice will be recognized and rewarded

Always being right

Unwilling to admit when you’re wrong, or prioritizing being right no matter what


Taking things personally or always assuming self-responsibility

Global labeling

Using words like “always” or “never” to describe or think about situations that are nuanced or complicated

How does CBT work?

Changing your patterns of thoughts isn’t always easy, which is why it’s helpful to work with a therapist when you’re in need of mental health support. They can help you:

  1. Learn to recognize your negative thoughts and behaviors
  2. Better understand conflict within your relationships
  3. Build your confidence in support of healthier relationships with both yourself and with others

Cognitive behavioral therapists will guide you through the recognition process of CBT. They will also help you create strategies to shift your thoughts and behaviors. Some examples of these strategies include: 

  1. Exposing yourself to your fears or anxieties instead of ignoring or avoiding them.
  2. Acting out conflict resolution and other types of confrontations (e.g. how to set boundaries with a loved one).
  3. Mindfulness techniques and grounding methods to help you stay in the present moment and physically relax.
Woman on her laptop participating in CBT with her therapist

Other types of therapy at Charlie Health

In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy work, Charlie Health uses a comprehensive suite of modalities to customize each client’s treatment program based on their individual mental health needs. CBT in combination with other types of online therapy, is a highly effective, evidence-based way to address serious mental health challenges.

About Charlie Health’s virtual IOP 

Our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program is designed for teens and adults who either need:

  • Therapy more than once per week, or
  • Support as they transition out of an inpatient or residential facility

Charlie Health’s virtual IOP uses a combination of individual therapy, supported groups, and family therapy to comprehensively and effectively treat people struggling with severe mental health issues. If you are struggling with the current level of care you’re receiving or need assistance as you return home from an inpatient setting. Our Admissions Team is available 24/7 to discuss your needs and goals. Reach out today. 

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Comprehensive mental health treatment from home

90% of Charlie Health clients and their families would recommend Charlie Health