A young man is in virtual CBT to improve TBI symptoms.

Yes, CBT Can Improve TBI Symptoms

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) cope with the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral challenges they may be facing.


share icon Facebook logo LinkedIn logo

How CBT treats traumatic brain injuries

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach to treating mental health symptoms linked with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The therapy focuses on helping people cope with the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral challenges that can arise after a TBI. Through CBT, people learn to recognize and change negative thought patterns, regulate their emotions, and develop practical strategies for managing symptoms such as memory problems, mood swings, and impulsivity. This type of therapy also helps people set and work towards achievable goals, which can be especially important during recovery. By addressing these aspects of TBI, CBT sessions can help people improve their overall quality of life and regain control over their symptoms.

Skills taught in CBT for TBI

Problem-solving skills

In CBT for TBI, people are taught how to break down problems into smaller parts and identify potential solutions. This skill helps a person with TBI to approach challenges in a structured and organized manner.

Cognitive restructuring

This intervention involves helping a person with TBI to recognize and challenge negative thought patterns or cognitive distortions. By reframing their thinking, people can reduce anxiety and improve their emotional well-being after a TBI.

Behavioral activation

CBT for TBI includes teaching people how to increase their engagement in positive and rewarding activities. This skill focuses on building routines and incorporating enjoyable activities into daily life to improve mood and motivation.

Stress management techniques

This includes stress-reducing strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness. These techniques can help alleviate the physical and emotional effects of stress related to TBI.

Communication skills

CBT for TBI may involve teaching individuals how to improve their verbal and non-verbal communication. This skill is essential for those who experience challenges in social interactions due to their TBI.

Time management

People learn how to manage their time better, prioritize tasks, and organize their daily activities. This skill can help individuals with a TBI to become more efficient and productive.

Anger management

This CBT intervention focuses on helping people with a TBI to recognize triggers for anger and learn healthy ways to express and manage their emotions. By developing effective coping strategies, individuals can reduce the impact of anger on their daily lives.

Decision-making skills

CBT for TBI may include teaching individuals how to improve their decision-making abilities. This skill helps individuals weigh the pros and cons of different options, leading to more confident and informed choices.

Goal setting

People are taught how to set realistic and achievable short-term and long-term goals. This CBT intervention can help individuals with TBI regain a sense of purpose and direction in their lives.

Benefits of CBT for TBI

CBT has been shown to have long-term benefits for people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). By offering support and strategies to manage symptoms such as mood swings, impulsivity, and memory problems, CBT sessions can help people to better cope with the ongoing challenges of TBI and improve their overall quality of life. By addressing the psychological effects of TBI, CBT can also help people develop healthier coping mechanisms and improve their mental well-being in the long term.

How quickly does CBT work for TBI? 

While not a replacement for medical intervention, people who undergo CBT for traumatic brain injuries often experience improvements in mental health-related symptoms relatively quickly. Studies have shown that a person who engages in CBT sessions typically reports noticeable changes in their symptoms within a few weeks of starting therapy. This approach focuses on addressing negative thought patterns and behaviors that can worsen the effects of TBI, leading to faster recovery and improved quality of life for those affected.

How is medication used to treat TBI?

Medication plays a crucial role in the treatment of traumatic brain injury. People with TBI may be prescribed a variety of medications to manage symptoms such as seizures, headaches, and mood disorders. For example, anticonvulsants like phenytoin or carbamazepine may be used to prevent or control seizures. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often given to alleviate headaches. Additionally, antidepressants or antianxiety medications like sertraline or buspirone may be prescribed to help manage mood and behavioral changes following TBI. These medications are tailored to the individual’s specific symptoms and needs and are combined with other therapies to provide comprehensive treatment for TBI.

Other types of treatment for TBI

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy focuses on helping people relearn everyday tasks and develop strategies to compensate for any physical or cognitive impairment following a TBI.

Speech therapy

Speech therapy assists people in regaining their ability to communicate effectively, including speech, language, and swallowing skills, which a TBI can impact.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy aims to improve strength, balance, coordination, and mobility in individuals who have suffered a TBI, helping them regain independence and function in daily life. Physical therapy can help people manage chronic pain or physical symptoms following a TBI.


An intensive outpatient program (IOP) for TBI helps people recover from severe mental health symptoms without needing to stay in a hospital. It includes different kinds of therapy sessions for a few hours a day, several times a week. A patient gets a plan that’s just for them, helping with things like thinking, moving, talking, and handling daily tasks, plus emotional support. They can still live at home and might keep working or going to school. The program also offers a chance to meet others in similar situations and provides family support. The main aim is to help the patient return to normal life activities, with regular check-ups to adjust the plan as they improve. This approach offers a good balance between getting intensive therapy and living a normal life.

Treatment for TBI at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with TBI, 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 TBI. Our expert clinicians incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing TBI is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

Charlie Health shield logo

Comprehensive mental health treatment from home

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

Girl smiling talking to her mother

We're building treatment plans as unique as you.