A young woman is in CBT for anxiety, her grandmother is giving her a hug.

Here’s How CBT Can Treat Anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with anxiety manage their worries. Learn more about CBT for anxiety here.


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How CBT treats anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treats anxiety by helping people identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to their feelings of worry and fear. By learning new coping strategies and relaxation techniques in a therapy session, people can gradually reduce their levels of anxiety and gain a sense of control over their symptoms. Through the therapeutic process, people can also uncover underlying issues that may be contributing to their anxiety disorder and work toward addressing and resolving them. CBT works for a multitude of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Overall, CBT for anxiety aims to help people develop a more balanced and realistic perspective on their cognitive distortion and behavior, ultimately leading to a reduction in their anxiety symptoms.

Skills taught in CBT for anxiety

Cognitive restructuring

This CBT technique teaches people to identify and challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves, the world, and the future. By learning to replace these thoughts with more realistic and positive ones, a person can reduce their anxiety levels and improve their overall well-being.

Relaxation techniques 

This skill focuses on teaching people various relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization exercises. These techniques help to calm the body’s physiological response to stress and reduce the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder, especially during a panic attack.

Exposure therapy 

This CBT intervention involves gradually exposing a person to situations or scenarios that trigger their anxiety, allowing them to confront their fears in a safe and controlled manner. Through repeated exposure exercises, people can learn to tolerate and eventually overcome their anxiety triggers.

Behavioral activation

This skill aims to help people identify and engage in activities that bring them a sense of pleasure, accomplishment, and mastery. By increasing their participation in rewarding activities, a person can reduce their anxiety and improve their mood.

Problem-solving skills

This skill teaches a person to identify and address the specific problems or challenges that contribute to their anxiety. By learning how to break down and solve these problems effectively, people can feel more in control and reduce their overall anxiety levels.

Assertiveness training

This skill focuses on teaching a person to communicate their needs, preferences, and boundaries clearly and respectfully. By learning to assert themselves in a social situation, people can reduce their anxiety related to social interactions and interpersonal conflicts.

Mindfulness and acceptance

This skill involves teaching a person to practice mindfulness meditation and acceptance techniques to help them stay present and nonjudgmental in the face of their anxiety. By developing a greater acceptance of their thoughts and emotions, a person can reduce their struggle with anxiety and find more inner peace.

Benefits of CBT for anxiety

Many people experience long-term benefits from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety. People find that CBT helps them develop coping skills and tools to manage their symptoms effectively. They often report decreased anxiety levels and a better overall quality of life. CBT treatment can also lead to a reduction in the frequency and intensity of anxiety symptoms, allowing people to live more fulfilling and balanced lives.

How quickly does CBT work for anxiety? 

Research suggests that CBT can be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms for many people, with noticeable improvement often seen within a few months of starting therapy. Studies have shown that the majority of people who undergo CBT for anxiety experience significant reductions in their symptoms, and some may even see improvements after just a few sessions. However, it’s important to note that the speed of improvement can vary from person to person, and some may require longer-term anxiety treatment to see the full benefits of CBT. 

Coping skills for anxiety

Deep breathing

Deep breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths to help calm the body and mind. It can be done by inhaling through the nose for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, and then exhaling through the mouth for a count of four.


Engaging in physical activity such as going for a walk, running, or practicing yoga can help to release built-up tension and stress in the body. It can also increase the production of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and observing their thought pattern and feelings without judgment. It can help to bring a sense of calm and relaxation and reduce the intensity of anxious thoughts and sensations.

Other types of treatment for anxiety

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

This therapy involves practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga to cultivate greater awareness of the present moment, which can help reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.

Art therapy

Art therapy utilizes creative expression through art-making to help people explore and process their emotions, thoughts, and feelings related to their anxiety.


This therapy involves using electronic monitoring equipment to teach people how to control physiological processes such as heart rate and muscle tension, which can help them learn how to reduce their anxiety symptoms.

IOP for anxiety

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are commonly used to treat anxiety when a person requires more support than traditional therapy but does not need the structure of a residential treatment program. IOP works by providing comprehensive support and therapy for people struggling with anxiety. Through a combination of group therapy, individual counseling, and skills training, IOP helps people learn coping strategies and build resilience to manage their anxiety symptoms. This level of care allows people to maintain their daily responsibilities while receiving the support they need to address their anxiety.

Treatment for anxiety at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with anxiety, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with complex mental health conditions, including anxiety. Our expert clinicians incorporate CBT into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing anxiety is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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